The Women’s Interstate Network
The letters written by the women in the family
kept them connected across the miles
and through the years.
The points of origin were on each coast,
in the desert and near the
These were the epistles of Lil, Stelle and Jean,
Zena, Camille and Mary
and Ann, Em and Roxie.
They carried news of brothers and sisters
and their spouses and children,
of home and places never seen by the readers.
Some were written in the same Catholic school cursive.
The words spoke from the paper in distinctive voices,
heard with the heart instead of the ears.
No matter how far the letters had traveled,
when they were read, the authors were
as close as the next sentence.
I read this poem at a reading at the Downtown Neon Gallery in Kansas City in January. I half jokingly asked the audience, "You do know what letters are, don't you?" I got the laugh I was seeking, but also some acknowledgement that my question wasn't that outrageous.
The letters Mother received from her sisters and sisters-in-law helped me get to know them and uncles and cousins, most of whom I saw only a few times in person. How many of you have read letters from your ancestors?
Letters written by prominent figures have allowed us to be privy to what they thought were private conversations. Here is a link to the first of the poet Ranier Maria Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet, that gives insights into his thoughts on writing.
Will blog posts, other social media posts or even emails reveal as much to future generations as letters have revealed to us? Are they as intimate? Do you have a favorite letter or collection of letters that has special meaning to you?
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