This week in the PEN Poetry Series, guest editor Cathy Park Hong features two poems by Craig Morgan Teicher. About Teicher’s work, Hong writes: “Craig Morgan Teicher’s poetry is unabashedly direct and addresses his love while the reader serves as intimate witness.  His two poems, ‘Tomorrow and Tomorrow Again’ and ‘Letters to Brenda,’ strike the tone of a private plaintive missive but are nonetheless universal in their metaphysical questions on time and mortality. Poetry is enamored by the short-term woozy love quickly extinguished by ‘time’s winged chariot hurrying near’ but in these poems, Teicher beautifully and achingly captures the romance and flawed foibles of a long-lasting marriage that sustains itself until death: ‘But here I am, the long white road before me. I envision you at the end of it, period.’ While sentiment in ‘Letters’ is vaunted, Teicher’s concerns for surviving together are all too real.”


Tomorrow and Tomorrow Again

Of course I don’t know what
happens to us: if we survive in the
hands of love; if Cal, if Simone
and all the trembling answers
those questions entail; whether
by time or by disease or by
an atom bomb right in the eye. Is it
possible death could be thrilling
and fun? And after could there be
something somewhere and what
will we do if we see each other
there? Will the same songs stay stuck
in our heads? Will medicine
succeed in making life so long
we will beg for medicine to end it?
One cannot lock eyes with a bird,
its eyes vacant as ball bearings, but
mustn’t there be some recognition
in everything? Some fury, some
questioning? If one phrase could echo
throughout eternity, would the ear
on the other end return
a word? But what am I asking?
Will I ever see a whale
as I’ve hoped, and will his size
compared to mine be a true
form of knowledge? Loneliness
has depths writing fails to indicate.
I could be clearer, say more, but
it wouldn’t mean as much. Mother
will I ever find you again? Is fear
of spiders justified? Is a power
above minding the scales, be it
science or gods or the weather,
and can they be tipped toward
balance from here? Is beauty more
than another form of pleasure?
And what is better?

Letters to Brenda


I’m so alone and sad and away. 
We said we’d write so here
goes. As if, addressed
to you from this distance,
I could reveal something neither
of us knows when we’re side by
side by side. As if love were
the frame that reveals the two
people in it. I like that:
“as if,” which is making a
statement by taking it back. 


It’s hard to do anything when
there’s no need: the leaves won’t
go brown in summer if I don’t write. 
Will you cry if I leave
the blank page blank? I’m nervous
I’ll say the right thing the wrong
way. But here I am, the long
white road before me. I envision
you at the end of it, period.


Should a love letter reveal
the lover to the beloved? 
Should it recall me to you,
send me your way without
my having to leave where I am? 
Or should it deliver you here,
my longing wrapping your shape,
your soft smooth skin and your
surprisingly long fingers in
the text where anyone can see
you and feel you as I do? We should
meet here, pulling these lines
over our bodies like a cool
sheet, cozy under the reader’s gaze.


When I die I’ll want you by my
bedside to hold my hand.  Life
lasted decades and we outlived
our losses, never a good match but
no one else could have lived this. 
I’ll want to die first so you
can do this for me, though you’ll
want to die first too. It’s not
selfish to want to be said goodbye
to. Let’s not argue. Let’s both die
first together, each of us sitting
by each other’s bedside where we
each lay gently expiring, explaining.


Imagine this is the surface
of a rippling pond—we are not
dying in this one—and you look
down and see my face where
your reflection should be. Would you
assume, then, that looking up
I see you instead of myself? 
Love asks questions like this
with no hope of an answer.


We’ve promised to talk on the
phone—I am longing for your
voice as if it could hold me. 
But what if one of us is not
in the mood? What if there’s
nothing to say? It’s easy
to feel like the other is
merely in the way. I’d be able
to hear the anger in your eyes.


Maybe it’s generosity that lets us
each see the other instead of ourselves
in the pool: could I bare how I must
sometimes look to you, when I’m
angry or childish? Or, worse,
when you feel the full bloom
of your love for me—could I lock
eyes with the person you’re
seeing then? I’m no match for him.


If I could slip you into my skin
and step out, for just a minute, let you
look out from behind my eyes, watch my
thoughts spinning inside your head,
let you feel the weight of my limbs
and my chest and my gut pulling down,
heavy with dying, or rarer, lifting
upward with inner light, you’d have
everything you’d need to forgive me
and you and everyone everything. 


It’s been raining here all day. 
Gray fills my insides like sleep. 
I crave sunlight through leaves, which
promises its own faraway origin,
where beauty isn’t surprising. 
I don’t want to spend my life
tiptoeing toward the next thing.


Words try to promise meaning
beyond what they say, as though
each one were a step on a path
to a distant outpost where, on a
wooden table, the final, simple
answer has been ruggedly carved.
Having gone there and attained
that knowledge, of course, one
can never come back, which is why
all writing must be imprecise,
so that we don’t have to
leave each other, ever, my lover.


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