Excerpt from “a game of correspondence” by Valerie Witte

Valerie Witte’s first full-length book of poetry, a game of correspondence, will be published next month by Black Radish Books. She will be reading at a joint event with Ugly Duckling Presse/Black Radish Books/Tender Buttons Press/Station Hill Press on Thursday, April 9th in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

a game of correspondence

her week of wonders: a translation

Status: Lost:

No one else knows
about moonlight.

To: VW

From: RD

Sent: November 23, 2:22 pm

Subject: An accomplice to circumstance

I suppose I was asleep. You can’t learn carpentry
from a book on Dixie. But I came to furnish

pages—as deft arms once held a piano in that
horrific, disturbing way that music is.

I attended the event to find a giant missing.
RD, half is wonder. The hallucination was short-
lived, on tenterhooks: oil from fleece and the dirt.

Who said anything about machinery? To prevent
shrinkage, cloth on a frame outside and left

unsettled. Lengths stretched at the perimeter
to which edges fixed. To dry, stop the two
hemispheres, a protective helmet radiates light.

An accomplice to circumstance or the contrivance
of the cosmos. I met a substance and resigned: small
blue flowers.

Status: Under analysis:

That she could no longer
presume to regard things
hopefully was not

To: RD

From: VW

Sent: November 23, 3:34 pm

Subject: A knot of women

If not creator, a destroyer preferred? If I were
to record my dreams would likely command more
attention than a series of sadistic inquisitions.
The music paled and thinned; can it be stretched?
As cartilage, skin and all.

At the party I chatted pretty with a host
of howevers, althoughs and yets employed for fifteen
years of misery regarding potential partners. I’m
an exile of time.

I’m learning more and more why you stay away,
RD. A lover substituted for another (but what does
this have to do with relativity?) Perhaps I was
merely someone to manipulate on occasion. One
of the puppets.

When the opposite of sex is too much to bear, will
the world end? I’m still terrified. A thick knot
of women.

Status: Occupied:

For the first time in my
life, I am trying to avoid

To: VW

From: RD

Sent: November 23, 3:52 pm

Subject: A deep swig

Why imagine a protracted kiss as in a dream.
To question the possibility of dwelling exclusively
in gray areas—the appeal of multiples or a secret
past uncovered. I’m just a pile of ashes, I am not
a girl. I’ll never be someone

to wrap your arms around for any length of time.
(As I said, someone always disappoints.) I’ve been
back only a week and I’ve already walked inside

storytime at the Rickshaw searching
for interventions though they never fully
materialized. What I meant to say: come home
with me. Because driving determines distance,
accessibility. And I’ve a convertible

for adapting to various conditions. I am not a girl,
do you hear? I’m already feeling so much smarter
about relationships. But wait/sorry/no you can’t
ride with me. I don’t take passengers.

Status: Discovered:

Who said anything about

To: RD

From: VW

Sent: November 23, 7:15 pm

Subject: Re: An accomplice to circumstance

RD, it’s a horror. They’re treating the beloved
crooner with small, blue flowers said to contain
a ready antidote. But I fear Mr. Glass may be bent
on destruction. (This was not an accident.)

I fled the stage and escaped the perimeter to deliver
(with delicacy) the spare key to my acquaintance.
In an audible landscape, listen:

the inner workings of my brain or some other.
I’m the figure of a prostrate girl shaken; while the agent
is outside the amphitheater with a helmet that radiates
light (can you tell: this is sarcasm).

If we could not marry, I should not be easy, holding
hands or ingesting the blood of chickens. When I’m
alone I can hardly stop weeping.

Status: Departed:

I don’t know whether God
or television made her so
smart. But I learned so
much in a five-minute

To: VW

From: RD

Sent: November 23, 9:20 pm

Subject: A method of abandonment

Who needs a telephone when we all have a method
of abandonment?

First love a ballerina. Then let your hair down
and give me your hat (you’ve always preferred
doubles). Am I your only object of interest? Try
taking me home; instead move to Bollywood.

But wait, what a reversal, dare-devil love triangle—
what a spectacle, such a side show, side story, back-
story, story within a story spawning

a fan club, merchandise bearing your likeness
and illustrations celebrating cannibalism.

Did you know we’ve a large mammal with a diet
of partially burnt corpses? Let’s imagine: a poorly
drawn sperm snatching bathers. Slaying the white
whale is top priority.

Status: Reunited:

I think I knew her from an
old cloud forest uncovered by

To: RD

From: VW

Sent: November 24, 8:05 am

Subject: The squirrel relocation project

The women spoon and spilled they are so
comfortable around you. Such mysteries just
dropped where you happened to be standing.
(Am I a woman or a shade, a 3,000-year-old forest
uncovered by rains?) I am trying to let you go

over the Rhine, to a staged reading without me.
But I keep seeing you everywhere (in this foreword
to Valerie violence and the squirrel relocation
project are ruthless). I keep tracking

locations of fire, but I’m most content when
the flame begins to gutter, post crush phase. As close
friends we are only briefly happy; for all our
intractable contrasts a desire to connect so

infrequently satisfied. But when our need to charm
fuses—the jewels in your necklace are whose
handiwork? A small smooth object fallen
from a tongue. You wear it as a body.




Valerie Witte is the author of the chapbook, The history of mining (ge collective, 2013); and her writing has appeared in various journals, including Diagram, Dusie, Barrow Street, VOLT, Interim, and Alice Blue. a game of correspondence is her first book. In 2014 she began a collaboration with Chicago-based artist Jennifer Yorke. Their artist books based on her manuscript Flood Diary have been displayed in the exhibition, “Quotidiean/Elements of the Everyday: Water,” held jointly at the CelerySpace gallery in Berkeley, CA, and La Porte Peinte in Noyers, France. She is a member of Kelsey Street Press and the Bay Area Correspondence School (BACS). A native St. Louisan, she now lives and works as an editor in the San Francisco Bay Area. Follow her musings and her work at @shellthief (Twitter) and valeriewitte.com.

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