A Way to Tell You – by Kari Despain

Painting: “Traces of You Linger”
Artist: Henry L. Jones
2019 – 16 x 20 inches – mixed media

Featured Composer’s Notes: “Resolute” is the word that I try to capture musically as I envision a grief-stricken 13-year-old girl carrying a letter to a beloved relative who has just passed away, through last year’s remnant cornstalks in a frosty March Kansas field. She intends to bury the letter, but pauses for contemplation and prayer. The biting cold rushes her into completing the task. The “happy” theme’s return signals the buried letter’s entry into eternal memory, just as our buried flesh puts on immortality by the grace of God.

Original Musical Composition created by Jeff Byers in response to “A Way to Tell You.” All Rights Reserved, 2019

A Way to Tell You

When you die and I am
thirteen, I take my grief past
the harvested cornfields, holding out
late stalks, burnt by frost, their bladed
hands flapping to show, made it through
the winter. They’ll be plowed under
soon. I hide in the bush shade and try to hear
God. He. She. Them. How do I reach? Skin holding me
in, hands thirty inches from my heart. They get cold. I rustle
the envelope from my pocket. It has your name in blue
ink. The A, always crooked, but you’ll know. Cover it in black
loam. I’ll watch it grow
with the johnsongrass in April.

Kari Despain is a current MFA candidate at the University of Kansas. She loves writing about the locations she grew out of: the wilds of the southwestern United States, the jungles of Trinidad, and the south-central heartland. Kari was named a 2016 AWP Intro Journals Project winner in poetry, and her work has been featured in Hayden’s Ferry Review, The Windhover, Penwood Review, and Great Plains Review among others.