Cover Photo: Illustration by Sirin Thada for Catapult
Illustration by Sirin Thada for Catapult

A Letter to My Mother, or Ode to Invisible Things

Dear sudden inspiration, creeping uncertainty, tiny splinter of glass, / sometimes you cannot be enough.

Dear pencil behind the ear,   you are the magazine wadded over someone else’s gum. Dear carefully leveled earth, Dear fine-toothed comb, Dear finding the stud on the very first try. Dear sudden inspiration, creeping uncertainty, tiny splinter of glass,   sometimes you cannot be enough. Dear the only untouched key on the keychain, Dear close call, baby blanket, true north. Dear fundament, faded scar, clouded sky at night, Dear unstoppable face of the moon,   you are the charm of the well-placed tchotchke,   the house that feels empty without you. Dear sagging disobedience, solitary apple in a field of oak, Dear pistachio shell, basement centipede,   yes, you too. Dear first fingers of dawn, Dear thermos, perennial underground,   the lesson becomes apparent.

Dear silken slip, Dear conspicuously absent wedding ring. Dear suffering, Dear mosquito on the far edge of sleep,   is there still more time, dear? Dear hours of labour and hours of worry, Dear small hour with no talk. Dear promise. Dear everyone alone in this room, Dear misaddressed envelope, Dear hidden sagebrush perfuming the afternoon,   sometimes the rain never touches the ground. Dear musical score, Dear adder, Dear anything-like-riding-a-bike. Dear unsaid apology, kite in the tree,   how long until a letter becomes a ransom? Dear kindness and freewill, Dear painful order of memory, Dear inheritance, mother tongue,   all of my dreams are in you.

Ryan Dzelzkalns has poems appearing with Assaracus, DIAGRAM, The Offing, The Shanghai Literary Review, Tin House, and others. He received an MFA from New York University and a BA from Macalester College where he was awarded the Wendy Parrish Poetry Prize. He has worked for the Academy of American Poets and was recently a Fulbright scholar in Tokyo, where he still lives. Read more at