Dear _, by Natalie Eleanor Patterson

Dear _____,

I am no good / Goodness is not the point anymore / Holding on to things / Now that’s the point
                                    —Dorothea Lasky

You are the bloodstain on my neck & like a scar my body carries you everywhere. There are songs that sound like dirges & foods I cannot eat because, like me, they too have touched the wet edge of your teeth. I was the thing cleaved by your hard knife & I was the abscess of light falling over the wound from a star you could not see. I collect metaphors because I thought this was the only way I could talk about my body. I never told you that in the first week I knew you, I wrote I accept responsibility for the hurt you will do to me. & maybe if I never stop writing to you then nobody will hurt me that way again. If poetry is about holding on to things then I will be a fine poet after all. In me there’s a country on the verge of collapse & I’m about to discover where ruined girls go when the pleasure wolves have had their fill. Love, I’d like to say you left me lying on the killing floor, but really I saw the stun gun at my temple & set the slaughterhouse on fire. I needed to flush all the rabbits out of their holes. Love, I wrote you a story, but it’s about blood. Love, I wrote you a letter, but this isn’t it.


Natalie Eleanor Patterson is a poet, editor, and instructor from Atlanta, Georgia with a BA from Salem College. She is the author of the chapbook Plainhollow (dancing girl press, 2022) and the editor of Dream of the River (Jacar Press, 2021), and has work featured or forthcoming in Sinister Wisdom, Hunger Mountain, CALYX, and elsewhere. She received awards in poetry from Salem College as well as Best of the Net and Pushcart Prize nominations. She is Managing Editor of Jacar Press, an editor for One magazine, and a reader for the Julie Suk Award. She is an MFA candidate in poetry at Oregon State University, where she serves as poetry editor of 45th Parallel and teaches creative writing.

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