By Jason Irwin 

Dear Charles,

I read today that you died & felt compelled to write,
though it’s not often I write letters to poets,
especially dead ones. It’s four in the morning here
in Pittsburgh, January in the year 2023 & I can’t help
but think about that letter Richard Hugo wrote,
apologizing for bombing you in Belgrade,
during the Second World War. I’m glad you survived,
that you made it to America & discovered poetry.
A few hours ago, after a friend posted the news
of your passing, I searched the internet to see
for myself, knowing how misinformation & falsehoods spread
these days. Maybe it’s because you were the same age
as my father, but when I read the words in print,
I felt like a child again, lost. Abandoned, somehow.
It’s true my father & I haven’t had the greatest
relationship, but over the last few months he’s grown frail,
as if some part of him has disappeared,
like it’s only a matter of time, but that’s all we have,
isn’t it Mr. Simic, a prescribed amount of time & no more.
No, you & I have never met, save for that reading
you gave some twenty-odd years ago at Poets House,
where you signed a book for me, but I feel we’re connected,
the way you might have felt connected to that child
who sobbed in your great poem “Hotel Insomnia.”
Maybe it’s a sense of the absurd, that nothing
can be taken for granted or the belief that writing one word
after another has the power to spell out a kind of truth,
a truth we seldom experience in our manic,
technology-addicted lives. I know it’s late. I know
I’m rambling & before too long my alarm clock will beep
& I’ll have to get ready for work, & barring some miracle,
you’ll never read this, but I just wanted to let you know
I’m sorry you died, & that I’ll miss you.

Jason Irwin is the author of the three full-length poetry collections, most recently The History of Our Vagrancies (Main Street Rag, 2020). He was a 2022 Zoeglossia Fellow and has also had nonfiction published in various journals including the Santa Ana Review, & The Catholic Worker. He grew up in Dunkirk, NY & now lives in Pittsburgh, PA USA.