Calvin Jolley, Dear,


Rosemary Bailey, WC 29


The grocer on 8th Avenue
lost the spare to our apartment.

I convinced a stranger to buzz me in
by explaining how we once lived there.

She was sorry to learn
of our divorce.


There is no

We forget.
We are reminded. 

We are blessed
to forget again.


This isn’t a poem.
It’s a fire escape.


A moon
over the Hudson

     on ether.

It’s a door.
The key.

It’s now.

Calvin Jolley


Review by Kaci Skiles Laws

I was captured by the title leading into this letter. It felt like peering into someone’s private life, like finding a note you know isn’t for your eyes, yet you can’t look away.

The read is quick and narrow, like I imagine mimics the descent down the fire escape it references. When you get to the bottom of the ladder (poem) you can breathe again, exhale audibly because you made it. But then what? Divorce must feel similar, a fleeing, maybe a mess or a fire, things misplaced and forgotten.

There is a sense of visiting the past to find it’s not the way you left it, and you don’t want to look at it anymore, not in that way or sense the overwhelming loss. The escape back into present feels grounding.

I don’t think this is a letter written with any intention of being sent.


Review by Jared Pearce

I have to confess that at first I was suspicious that the speaker was up to no good—that he had somehow entered the apartment that he should not have.  I’m happy that, I think, that first suspicion is incorrect.  I prefer the poem as a letter to the ex-spouse that delineates how we work to survive from one moment to the next, sliding carefully on the tightrope of memory.  And while that might seem pretty approachable, the poem, in its third movement, changes tack: it’s no longer a comment on memory or survival, but, as it says, it is now “a fire escape,” a rickety clank of steps to get away for a moment, to remove the speaker from the apartment, from the memory (and maybe from the forgetting, too), and from the poem.  For me, the removal really does fly from memory because the poem, like it or not, is the memory, and the speaker, having finally arrived at the formerly shared-space, must then retreat from that space, from that conflagration of memory, or risks being consumed in the past.

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