Emily Pettit ~ Dear Cousin

Dear Cousin ,
I miss you very much. My life now has pur­pose, but your absence con­tin­ues to be so very hard to accept. I know things are just like the song says “you’ve got go to prison for your cousin / you’ve got to / you’ve got to / you’ve got to” but this truth does not delete my beat­ing heart for you. It almost beat right out of my chest stand­ing in the mess line yes­ter­day wait­ing for my por­ridge. When a fel­low inmate makes their way over to me and demands my por­tion of por­ridge and then takes it or whomps me until I drop it — I’m always trans­port­ed back to my place with you and your con­stant and cor­rect insis­tence that my food was clear­ly bet­ter put to use by your body. I miss this along with so much else. You shout­ing at me, “You rat ass. You spoiled radish. You slime runt. You grasshop­per stool. You trash bone. You bug food.” I can­not bare to share with you the new names I am called. They would most cer­tain­ly dis­ap­point you, if not dis­gust you. The vio­lent odors I now live amongst, on the oth­er hand, I think would please you a great deal. They are the smells I deserve I am quite sure. Another thing of which I am quite sure, is that you would approve of the rate at which my mind is dete­ri­o­rat­ing. No longer does a sin­gle face appear to me when the lights go out at lights out. I am alone now even in my dreams. More and more alone. I hope you are hap­py to know that. I know you must be strug­gling with my absence as well. I wor­ry there is no one for you to scream at when your feet are cold or your phone has been mis­placed or your Magic Eight Ball doesn’t tell you what you know it should. All I have left is our shared under­stand­ing. If you think it might make things bet­ter for you to destroy that too, please do. I had want­ed to send with this let­ter a small doll of me for you to stick with pins when what­ev­er is not work­ing for you is not work­ing, but the doll I was so close to com­plet­ing for this pur­pose was con­fis­cat­ed in the most recent cell search. I know you will not for­give me for being so care­less as to let that hap­pen and I will take what com­fort I can in know­ing this. Please take com­fort in know­ing I am almost no more.

Yours, Cousin


Emily Pettit is the author of Goat in the Snow. She is a writer, visu­al artist, teacher, and an edi­tor for Factory Hollow Press and jubi­lat. She teach­es at Columbia University.