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Letters Written in Longhand
Kay N. Sanders


Looking through my mother's old cookbook,
published in celebration
of Alabama's sesquicentennial,

I come across divider pages,
the backs blank when the book was new,
filled now with her handwritten copies of recipes,

and suddenly I am propelled into her presence
just by the sight of her handwriting,
feathery lines that float across the page,

familiar as my own
heartbeat.  Familiar

as her letters written in longhand,
a script that travels across the years
as inexorably as it once traced

the northward curve of the continent
to find me here in Wisconsin.  
And I marvel at a thing so simple that joins

two spirits no longer present
to each other in the flesh.

This poem first appeared in That Red Dirt Road (Parallel Press, 2010).
Used here with permission.

Kay N. Sanders, a native Southerner who now lives in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, has an 11-circuit labyrinth mowed into her backyard, which she shares with deer, rabbits, turkeys, squirrels, chipmunks, possums, birds, a garter snake or two, plus whatever else wanders through. Kay grew up hearing her mother and maternal aunts recite poetry, sing songs, argue, tell stories, quote scripture and even cuss, now and then; how could she not become a poet?


Post New Comment:
I so agree with Kevin Arnold. Those middle lines stopped me, and in rereading them, I savored many sentiments. What a wonderful poem, Kay! M Z Windau
Posted 01/19/2021 05:02 PM
Kay N. Sanders:
p.s. It took me so long to reply because I couldn't remember my password!
Posted 01/18/2021 08:21 AM
Kay N. Sanders:
Thanks to you all for your encouraging comments. It's good to see that longhand still lives.
Posted 01/18/2021 08:19 AM
Wilda Morris:
Excellent. I just found some old letters and know that feeling!
Posted 01/16/2021 06:13 PM
Mementos of loved ones--especially parents--are so precious. lOVELY POEM
Posted 01/16/2021 12:29 PM
Thank you, Kay! My mother always typed her letters, so her handwritten recipe cards are all the more special!
Posted 01/15/2021 03:15 PM
Maryann Hurtt:
Thank you, Kay Sanders, for reminding us how good it is to write and receive snail mail. What a fine poem.
Posted 01/15/2021 01:11 PM
And I marvel at a thing so simple that joins two spirits. . Not only in the handwriting of loved ones who have passed on but also in a handwritten note from a friend that I receive in the mail. True gift - so warm and cozy. That reminds me to write a note or two or three - maybe today! Thank you, Kay! And Jayne, too. 😊
Posted 01/15/2021 11:50 AM
Kay N. write a beautiful truth and I and many others, are moved. Thank you.
Posted 01/15/2021 11:09 AM
Darrell Arnold:
I love the sentiment. Alas, after my extensive note-taking years of high school, college, and grad school, by hand-writing became so altered that, if I did not recopy my notes at the end of the very day I heard the lecture, I could not later decipher what it was I was trying to write. A hand-written letter from me would have been quaint and even cherished, but it would be largely unreadable. Thank God I learned to type.
Posted 01/15/2021 10:55 AM
Sharon Waller Knutson:
This powerful poignant poem hit home. These lines also describe my feelings when I read my mother's handwriting in her cookbook: and suddenly I am propelled into her presence just by the sight of her handwriting,feathery lines that float across the page,familiar as my own heartbeat.
Posted 01/15/2021 09:44 AM
I love "familiar as my own /heartbeat. Familiar //as her letters written in longhand, Kay's placement of these lines at the poem's center worked wonderfully for me.
Posted 01/15/2021 09:21 AM
"Inexorably" got my attention.
Posted 01/15/2021 09:11 AM
Posted 01/15/2021 09:11 AM
michael escoubas:
Unique, powerful and poignant! Yes, hand writing truly is a lost art or soon will be, this is why all my poems get recorded long-hand in my journal. I enjoy the shapes of letters, forming them, how they look on the page. One small delight I continue to treasure.
Posted 01/15/2021 08:57 AM
Larry Schug:
Ah, the hand-written letter! There is something about life in a letter, the patience of waiting for one to reach its recipient and the anticipation of a letter coming our way. Let's all write a letter today. How about a national Send a Letter Day? Obviously, to me at least, a very inspiring poem.
Posted 01/15/2021 08:57 AM

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