Words in Air

My Darling receding Elizabeth:  

The other night I had a dream about you, one of those dreams where
           I see us whiten into skeletons,

we’re still creatures of flesh and blood
thank God, but ahead – diminishment, disappearance of friends, our own
formless time of irresolution, forgetfulness, inertia, all the Baudelairean vices

           I am back from a month at the sanitarium. It was a quiet stay this time. I
grow wise. How fearful, if I am not something impressively more at fifty –

           You are so sweet about my poems. I think I must write entirely for you. I
couldn’t bear to have my book (my life) wait hidden inside me like a dead

           Ah, I miss you, I miss you!
while all my twists squirm on the surface
           I want you to know. . . Oh dear, I wanted you to know so many things...

forgive me.
I was writing in a dream.
the muse or perhaps only the spirit of rhetoric
starts naked, ends as fake velvet.
           each drug that numbs alerts another nerve to pain.
down under I feel something that makes sober sense and lets my eyes open.
sure it be the will of the heavens that all is at it is.

Someday, we will be in the same spot and long, long, long. Love to Lota.
           And you, my Dear –


Note: This cento is sourced from letters written by Robert Lowell to Elizabeth Bishop, as published in Words In Air, The Complete Correspondence Between Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008).