Dear Bill, by Craig Cotter

Dear Bill,

In the past 125 years
many of my neighbors have planted giant redwoods
on their front lawns.

LA is too arid for them.
They get a little sprinkler water,
a little rain,
but not enough.
In 125 years they quickly grow to be the tallest trees in town,

but they are not full like the redwoods north of San Francisco.
They are spindly and pale instead of full and deep green.
They could suck-up 20 times the water they get in LA.


A mourning cloak
among blossoming jasmine.

A rare butterfly now in North American.

They fly quick and erratic and are hard to catch with a net.
They’re usually jumpy and skittish

but I stood in front of it,
6 inches away,

while it probed jasmine blossoms.
I watched it for several minutes.

The top wings outlined in yellow,
the rest of the wings deep brown—

but when you look closely, the wings are circles of all shades of iridescent brown,
black and violet.

The back of the wings the same dark iridescence
but even darker.

I remembered being 8 in Michigan
trying to catch one.

Hard too as you’d rarely see them.
Still thinking I wanted to catch it with my hand,

or wishing I had a killing jar.

But now I have no interest to collect it
beyond memory and this poem.

A jacaranda is still in bloom.


When I taught I never scolded children for day-dreaming.
I’d see them look out windows.

They would say, “I wasn’t working,” or,
“Sorry, I was day-dreaming.”

“It’s not a problem.”


Thinking of you in Brockport.


I turned down 27 readings last year.

They would’ve allowed me to sell books
and generate cash.

I certainly have my price.

But they’re opposed to day-dreaming.

And there’s not much time for day-dreaming left.


Today seeing a mourning cloak
was not like anything else Davin.

If it’s finally just your eyes on my words—
you never see me,

even while I’m alive—
that works best.

Did you ever have the right amount of friends and lovers
and didn’t need more?


I’ve been paid to attend private parties
because some rich people want “real artists” at their parties.

I accept with time limits and with no promise to speak.


They see more mourning cloaks
than poems.

A guy I gave a book to 22 years ago
said last week, I always thought you’d still be writing poetry
do you still write?

Told him I gave it up.


It would be nice to get out of this
with a slick synthesis of the many images and themes
I’ve introduced.

Costa Rica at night on Sugar Beach rubbing Michael’s feet.


A butterfly or a tree?

It’s been mostly in my control so far.

No wars romping through town,
have survived the fires, floods, earthquakes, so far.

Surviving murderous neighbors
not taking all useful precautions.


The robin you observed in your yard,
did it set you from your family?

Did it get you thinking of that perfect girl?
Do you still have the blue glass bell?

Have you seen a Himalayan blue poppy?

           –for William Heyen


Craig Cotter was born in 1960 in New York and has lived in California since 1986. His poems have appeared in Southword (Ireland), Chiron Review, Columbia Poetry Review, Court Green, The Gay & Lesbian Review, Great Lakes Review, Hawai’i Review, & Tampa Review. His fourth book of poems, After Lunch with Frank O’Hara, is currently available on Amazon.

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