Jack Foley


Dearest Senora Malena,

You understand that it is particularly difficult for me to write this e-mail
since I am not only a child but a fictional one--one appearing in a film.
But, after all, you are a fictional character too, though not a child. To
tell you the truth, I have been watching you for years. This is no strange
thing, since everyone in this town watches you all the time. But I am the one
who stole your black panties. I hope it did not inconvenience you too
greatly. Such beautiful things must be scarce in wartime, especially when
one's country is losing the war. Your great beauty inspires me daily. Most of
the men who see you want to go to bed with you. I am no exception to this
rule. When my father brought me to a brothel, I chose a whore who looked like
you. (I do not mean to imply that the whore resembled you in any other way.)
However, I think that my feelings are not limited to the sexual. You may have
heard, when I briefly went mad, I recited poetry. I think I must believe in
the soul. Perhaps I confuse you with my soul. For a child, the world of
adults--and, for me, the world of war--is like a movie I watch, just as I
watch you. I see it going on and I am even touched by it, but I can't
influence it. It ignores me. I hope you will forgive me for saying that your
life, though undoubtedly real to you, was a kind of movie to me. I can't
express to you the pain I felt when I saw you beaten by those horrible women.
Yet what could I do? Only watch. Had you seen me--which you did not--you
would have seen me grow or struggle to grow out of my childhood. I got my
first pair of long pants. My father brought me to a whore, who was the first
woman ever to make love to me. The significance of such moments was not as
great as I hoped it would be. Twice, though, it was permitted to me to touch
you, in a small way. Once, I wrote a note to your husband. (I wrote many
notes and poems to you but could not deliver them.) And once I helped you
pick up some oranges you had dropped. These were, for me, my first real
passage into adulthood, not my long pants or my first sexual experience:
these were the moments when I realized I could do something, however small,
to help another person. This, oddly enough, was my entrance into manhood. It
was also the moment when I stepped out of the movie--or, more accurately
perhaps, into it. I wish I could return your black panties to you.
Unfortunately, my father discovered them adorning my forehead and my mother
subsequently burned them in disgust. I hope you will not think it crude of me
to say that I know another who sometimes wears black panties. You were my
first love. You were also the first person I could truly help. How memorable
that makes you. Perhaps your beauty has faded, though I doubt it. Perhaps you
have begun to forget the events that happened to you in our town. It was not
a bad town, though some very bad things happened in it. For me, it was the
place in which love, finding some very unlikely tinder, burst into flame.

Yours Sincerely,

Renato Amoroso

Jack Foley is a poet and critic in the San Francisco Bay area who has hosted a show of interviews and poetry preesentations on Berkeley radio station KPFA. A contributor to Poetry Flash and The Alsop Review, his books of poetry include Letters/Lights - Words for Adelle (1987), Gershwin (1991), Adrift (1993), Exiles (1996), and with Ivan Arguelles, New Poetry from California: Dead/Requiem (1998). Adrift was nominated for a Bay Area Book Reviewers' Award. His poems have been published in a wide variety of magazines, including The New York Quarterly, Exquisite Corpse, The Beloit Poetry Journal, Talisman and many others. He is the author of O Powerful Estern Star and Foley's Books, both from Pantograph Press 2000.


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