We no longer have anything in common.
You’re welcome. This letter
is to assure you that you do not die young. I won’t
give everything away, but please
keep these things in mind: no one cares about
your year in Korea; vodka
is a mistake, but you will eventually love whiskey; you cannot
pass a college chemistry course;
as far as I can say, you will never have enough money;
that throbbing is not testicle torsion;
your OCPD does manifest in excellent organizational skills, however,
your inability to take a long view
will result in another broken heart—don’t cry
so much this time. (SPOILER:
The girl you loved in high school dates guys again.)
I’ll leave everything else for you
to figure out. Don’t write back. I remember everything
I need to know about you.

As for you, please forgive me. I’ve had no idea
what the hell I’ve been doing
the last decade. I’m sure you have a real job by now.
If not, please disregard my apology
and get your shit together. I’m sure you still blame me
for your lack of success, but remember:
I never visited Ireland because I was repaying those student loans;
when I started grad school I thought
I wanted to be a teacher, and a second English degree did,
if you can believe it, sound practical;
there were no Korean courses to take! Go back to Korea
if you want to learn;
I was in love, and that should suffice to explain everything else.
Please send correspondence
back in time. If possible, send money with. If applicable, include
a picture of your wife. Clothed.
I’d like to discover her myself. If you ever learn the secret
to success, please give me some
credit for first exhausting all the ways in which we could fail.

  • I don't have a diagnosis of Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder, but I once dated a psych major who suggested I see a therapist for it.
  • In October 2012, I read this poem at Binghamton University's Writing By Degrees: Biennial Conference on Writing. Later, one of my co-panelists, Jenny Molberg, asked if I had read Jim Harrison's Barking, noting the similarity in my poem to Harrison's lines: "This is to inform you / that I didn't die young." I hadn't read any of Harrison's poetry at that time, but I'm pleased that I arrived at a similar sentiment as a poet who has become one of my muses.
  • This poem was first published in China Grove.