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.

Dear Advice Columnist by Ona Gritz

Dear Advice Columnist

Advise me. People keep dying.
My co-worker on vacation in Charlotte,
aneurism burst to the brain.
My cousin sitting inside a cell phone store
(yes, inside, that’s not a typo) when a car
crashed through the plate-glass window,
mowing right over her small, strong
dancer’s body as she waited her turn.
Before that, my brother-in-law
with the dubious honor of saying goodbye
to functions, one after another after another—
goodbye walking, bye-bye holding a spoon,
sayonara speech—all in the rapid-fire way
ALS decrees. As for my immediate family:
cancer, cancer, hep C, cancer, victim of a murder.
Dear Advice Columnist, dear me,
how do I get the remaining people
I love to outlive me, without exiting
too soon myself? Stop the world,
Advice Giver, or is it the clock?
I want to stay, but only
if you stay with me. Not you, per se,
figment who can never answer this letter,
but you and you and you and you…


Ona Gritz’s new collection of essays, Present Imperfect, is out now from Poets Wear Prada. She is also the author of Geode, a Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award finalist, and On the Whole: a Story of Mothering and Disability. A longtime columnist at Literary Mama, Ona’s poems and essays have appeared in Ploughshares, The New York Times, River Teeth, The Bellevue Literary Review, Brevity, and elsewhere. Recent honors include two Notable mentions in Best American Essays, a Best Life Story in Salon, and a winning entry in The Poetry Archive Now: Wordview 2020 project.