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Audio: Read by the author.


To General Lew Wallace: Dear Sir, I think when You think the matter over You will come down and See me, and I can then Explain Everything to You.


Croquet under our big New Mexican
sky—glorious! and I’d say, as in the dream, Henry, William, Kid,
life, life is good. O, I write to you now Lew
Wallace to say that a deal is a deal
is a deal, and that everything is possible
under our eye-squinting American sky. Let us

then, who in 1912 will join the United States
of America (possessed as we are of its great insistent can-
do) admit to ourselves that, neither of us a cockeyed sibyl
but earnest and blue-jay naked,
we draw from the deck-top as we’re dealt
and by the pips and kings in our hands—win or lose—

make a future to live by. Lew, I’ll not play loose
with you if you are square with me. These letters—
I write them without airs on a plain deal
table as the stars outside this room thicken
and I cut for you, through the very middle of the middle, the tasty scrap of quid
we might one day share. I admit, I mutter sometimes the unsayable

when, down to the dregs, to the last syllable,
I find myself Armadaed, Alamoed, lost and Waterlooed,
repeating their names—my friends, my Regulators, kith
and kin: Tunstall and Brewer and O’Folliard and Bowdre, Paulita’s
sudden kisses. And sometimes, Lew, I can’t help but sicken,
at how comity (I nearly wrote comedy!), how a good idea’ll

twist up intractable between two men, two cities, two earths. None of this is idle
talk, for when a hail of posse bul-
lets comes whistling your way, there’s little room for cant,
for the loud babbling hullabaloo
of the mob, hot lead dust-
ing up the ground around you. The whole thing makes a body skit-

tish, Lew, and I’m squinting, as in the dream, through the upright wicked
wicket, as through the eye of a needle
and I see clearly this time where circumstances have led us
and I say to myself, Suppose Bill,
(for I have watched closely for every clue
and gather them like a second

heart beside the first) suppose, this once, in lieu of the merely plausible,
we might speak a lexicon of the ideal and of all
that’s left us.
O, Come down, Lew, and, I kid you not, I will Explain Everything.




Steve Kronen’s books are Homage to Mistress Oppenheimer (Eyewear), Splendor (BOA), and Empirical Evidence (Georgia). He is a librarian in Miami, where he lives with his wife, novelist Ivonne Lamazares.




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