And now for our (optional) prompt. This is a twist on a prompt offered by Kay Gabriel during a meeting she facilitated at the Poetry Project last year. Today, I’d like to challenge you to write a two-part poem, in the form of an exchange of letters. The first stanza (or part) should be in the form of a letter that you write either to yourself or to a famous fictional or historical person. The second part should be the letter you receive in response. These can be as short or long as you like, in the form of prose poems, or with line breaks – and of course, the subject matter of the letters is totally up to you.
Dear Mr. Malcolm X
Dear Mr. Malcolm X:
Ever since reading your autobiography
In the summer between 6th and 7th grade
I’ve been fascinated by the things you said,
Captivated by the life you lived, the places
You visited around the world. I visited many
Of them over the years to retrace your steps.
You left us far too soon.
The Banks boys, who knew everything,
Told me I was reading the wrong book,
And that Malcolm X Speaks portrayed better,
Gave a better flavor of your thinking.
I found a paperback copy at Wills Bookstore
In the basement where the black books
Lived. But I still thought the autobiography
I’ve read lots of books about you since then,
so many that on occasion I refer to you
(With a certain degree of familiarity
among close friends) as Brother Malcolm.
Hope that’s OK. Yours truly, Raymond
Dear Brother Raymond:
As-salaam alaikum. Peace be unto you.
Was thrilled to receive your letter.
I confess to you up front that, while
I never had a son, I have always
hoped that young men would read
Books about me and be inspired
By my life. Through readers like you
I continue to live.
Yes, they killed me. At the beginning
Of a speech in New York. I missed
seeing my daughters grow up. I miss
Betty’s cooking. I’d spend more time
At home with my family if I had it
to do all over again. But we don’t get
an instant replay on life like football
games on the TV. It’s one and done.
Let’s keep this channel open, brother.
I still have much to share, much to process
myself. The old folks used to say “Believe
none of what you hear and only half
of what you see.” Good advice.
Peace be unto you. Sincerely, Malcolm.