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.
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.