How to Write a Letter

The night before, wander under a sky full of crashing stars and a gibbous moon. Kneel down in the dirt until your hands and knees become earth. The next morning find paper and a pen that feels like an extension of your soiled hand. Begin by marking the date; anthropologists two hundred years from now will thank you. Open with the word “Dear,” pressing down, because you mean a dire kind of dear, as well as his first name. First, ask a question about the condition of his well-being—examples include, How are you? and Are you broken, too? Mention your own body only in passing; Canadian geese traveling south, a distant V.

Remember the anthropologists and make a note of the weather: a grey fog hiding a churlish sun. Write briefly about yourself in sentences you haven’t been able to say on the phone. Examples include, I drank and drank until the room was a warm, dark hole and I miss you. Try not to smudge the page with your dirty fingerprints or tears.

Move to a new paragraph. Indent. Mention the decathlon you saw on the news and how you felt about it, but avoid politics. This is a kind reminder that no one is concerned with your female perspective on political matters. List your errands for the day. Share a cheerful secret.

How to write a letter by Danni Gillespie
Illustration by Danni Gillespie

Ask another question, one that will require him to think before responding—examples include, Are you looking forward to summer? and Do you still love me? Follow up with how your family is doing and enquire about his, never mind the nights you peeked into his parents’ bedroom window.

Leave your desires out, how sad you are. Remember a letter should be a happy thing, and what would the anthropologists think?

End with a salutation. Examples include, Warm wishes and I’ll never be the same without you. Sign your name.

Monet Patrice Thomas is a writer currently living in Beijing, China. She’s loved four men, but that doesn’t matter. She holds an MFA in poetry from the Inland Northwest Center for Writers at Eastern Washington University in Spokane, Washington. 

Monet Patrice Thomas is a writer currently living in Beijing, China. She's loved four men, but that doesn't matter. She holds an MFA in poetry from the Inland Northwest Center for Writers at Eastern Washington University in Spokane, Washington.