American Letters

Hannah Star Rogers

Dear Bureau of Land Management,
It is as simple as the following: on a hillside trail outside Yuma
that I have climbed to get a better look at your latest permitting
of a private fracking operation, what is under a birder’s hat tells me
that you employed him at graduation, as soon as he got his
citizenship. His parents lived right over the line in Old Mexico
and his mother wanted to live on this side because she liked the steady
freezer temperatures, something about intermittent electricity. All
that must have been in the ‘60s from the looks of things, but this week
some folks from D.C. are up to look for land no one does anything on
so the taxes haven’t been paid—maybe ever. They’ve come to collect,
but everyone figures it will be federal or auctioned, and he is thinking
you should get it all: it’s been wild so far he says—
why should that change?

Dear NASA,
I met you for the first time in Huntsville
in the 6th grade and all I remember was one father’s
suggestion that some of the adults on the overstaffed
overnighter could skip the rocket-shaped chicken and take
lunch at Hooters. Now my students are begging me to bring
them to you. Wallops Island is not so far from the
geese-wintering refuge, so the scorched earth your private
enterprise left on our collective property seems like
a good lesson. The surprise is the flight director, Lyndi,
about my age, who presses her tortoise-shell headband
into her temples as the field trip coordinator says,
the professor would like you to tell them about the day
of the accident. The students leaned forward, but I lean back
away from the badge dangling over her elbow when shyness
crosses her arms.

Dear Domestic Violence Hotline,
Before morning, I will hose the blood off the porch
but right now she is telling me something about a chair:
that the leg went between her neck and collarbone.
I honestly cannot imagine that much force but all she wants
is to borrow the telephone, and I know it’s true. She doesn’t have one.
She came up here yesterday to ask for four dollars for gas.
There is a little bleeding around her bottom gum, so
for some reason a washrag seems like a good idea. She makes no
move to come inside, so I scramble for the phone
and a hotel pen and pad. A glass of water occurs to me.
A comforter occurs to me. The contents of
my whole rental house occur to me.

Dear FAA,
This possibility really never occurred to me. I knew it
could happen, but I assumed I would be at home.
I pictured my own comforter, my own ringed tub.
Certainly I thought I could stretch out. The woman
on the plane beside me works for you. She’s a wildlife
biologist and she takes away all the food birds might like
around airports so your flocks don’t encounter their flocks.
She grew up in Brussels but met an American professor
on sabbatical. She’s asleep now, with her blond dreadlock-beads
clicking quietly against the window. She already told me how
she is glad she didn’t have children because it makes her transfer
from Denver to Miami much easier. I guess I don’t look pregnant
to her and in a few hours I won’t be. Was this your way
of preparing me?