Dear Paul, I confused the pollen on the tree with ash. It was sundown and the light made the flowers burn. I couldn’t tell their color from the star. I heard a melody, brightmelody and the flake- slough’s enigma hymning the turfblack the rest of the day drifted to blue. // Dear Paul, The music plucked from your ghostbook has always been doubly-cancelled—first because the task of countermanding the German while expecting it to carry the shards of each syllable you pen is impossible, and second because that German (and yours) are foreign to me, and I hear them through another instrument. If your German is a cello, the English I hear is a violin. // Dear Paul, I imagine the taste of the Seine to be gold and deep jade approaching the shade of a forest. If enough ash is present, it can abrade the skin to rawness, no less the lungs. The palo verde are in bloom here, Paul. A month ago a brushfire swept briefly though this patch of desert forest. I expected no yellow blossoms on the tips of blackened trees, whose silhouettes, I discovered, composed notations against a high mountain, its peaks mirroring their forms behind them, though ordered and arranged as a horizon. There are ghosts of past trees all around. They together are flutter of the thorax. What remains as vestige of a plaint or description. There are also remnants of old sand below my feet. The Paiute once ranged here in the meadowlands in abundance. Large bees hovered over the flowers in the late spring dusk. The land vast the scars discreet telling the showing the fingertwig tracing was there another loop there. Another alphabet here. The breeze breaching letter-edge and verse. Lamina particle noumena. // Dear Paul, I must say your name repeatedly. I must chant your name a thousand and one more times. // Dear Paul, I’ve been reading recently about the planet. Did you know that we contain a thousand things? Did you know that each body has millions of histories, and that bodies and histories transpire together? Did you know that these hauntings make us all monstrously plural? . . . How can a tongue be attuned to a previous bone? How can an eye be trained upon the flight of an historical throat- bared merciless to a light-catching fugue? The stick I held in my hand in the ash-field was a try. Were I to write a translation of your translation of what is humanly possible, the way things and a people wrest grace. From. Toward. // Dear Paul, I had to round the palo verde to realize that it was in bloom. When I approached it, heading west, it was nothing more than a shape. The sun, setting just to its right, at a corner upon which the light touched it like a bulb lit at a tip of what I thought was a dead branch, turned the tree and its surroundings into an all-too-natural tincture, with an all-too-familiar aspect: crepuscular, oblique. I could smell the earth and the wood, the embers and their traces persistent, resilient. I’d been walking all day. The photographer Robert Adams (you don’t know him—I think you ended your life before he came to prominence) said something about trees I vaguely remember: that he didn’t know anyone who didn’t love—or couldn’t love—a tree. That he didn’t want to know someone who couldn’t love a tree. Maybe my confusion is telling. Maybe my reading of whatever his statement implied translates a universe. How a description becomes a normative statement. How they can be one and the same. Someone else I’ve read, Enrique Dussel (another person who came after your time, Paul), said just as much, and how the conflation of the two types of statements is when ethics is born. What does it mean to describe a tree, then? To say that the scent makes the soil come alive with a spray of black. How this aroma perfumed the collarbones of an elsewhere and anothertime. How the color is the hue of ink on books on which shibboleths are constantly renewed. How these shibboleths require a translation I’m incapable of performing. And how the ash is a planetary substrate where reckoning can never be completed. I thought of how old some of the other trees around me must have been. I thought of what they’d seen. If the Indian rosewoods had sheltered the crowns of sun-kissed people aeons ago. If the mesquite had smelled the smoke before the fire ate them alive. Whether or not the cholla are capable of wetting the skin with a liquid metabolized from a hundred thousand sunsets. Does the ash here know of this country’s bodies? Does it taste of the bodies of your family aus Deutschland the geologic swerve upon someone’s hair, your melody ihr aschenes Haar Schulamith. // Dear Paul, I don’t know how to end this letter. I think of responsibility and translation again. I think of how to end when endings are all there are in your words. I can’t read your German. I can’t read your German. I don’t know your blood and your suicide. Paul these rivers and clay abolish the world something cosmic an intercession that would belong to what us conspiring a hallowed curse. I can’t read your German. I can’t read your German. I can’t speak your German. // Dear Paul, Are “can’t” and “shouldn’t” the same thing here? I hear violins that aren’t yours. If we’re multiple, though, and planetary, are you also, Paul, symphony? I drove home, the perfume of the trees lingering in my throat.