A Letter to Lucie About Lucie

Shane McCrae

She gave it with her living hand to me a copy of      The Master Letters with her living hand to meThick with a thickness they now     I can't say     how many re-      printings later new     copies have lost the paperThey're printed on is thinner     now but it itself was new      She gave it to me new she must have had it sinceThe book was new to her she must have     kept it in her castle      She signed it     in the Little Castle that was where we wereTogether she     you must have kept it in your castle for      Twenty years Master how     long had you lived in the castleBefore I for a single afternoon     came where are you      To ask     I think     the castle followed you     your whole lifeAnd now you've taken the castle     to wherever you have gone      Master of now     gone from now                                                                           she must have kept thatCopy for twenty years before     she with her living hand      Gave it to me     a paperback     still glossy withThe printing date 4/97 still     glossy beneath      The gloss or Master was it     printed on the glossAs we are we who     walk on Earth are     printed on the gloss      And liable to smudge and     disappear if touchedI ask you where are you to ask     I might have     called you after      I heard     but first I'll tell the story     we were under-ground waiting for a train my daughter and     I waiting for      An A or D     to ride it down     to Union Square whenI heard a woman go     under the train     the sound must      Have been the train     crushing her body but the sound soundedLike a piece of paper tearing that was     what it sounded      Like     then screaming and the screaming was the soundI turned to     Master then I turned my daughter’s face away      I might have called you after     I might have said It soundedLike paper Master where are you to ask     do you know now to      Whom she was Master     the woman beneath the trainYou must have kept it     in your little castle not for     me in      Particular     but for whoever would be there callingYou when your love was called     to cross the bridge from hand to hand      The book would for a moment make as it was givenAnd I was there     I called you and you     with your living hand      Took the book down from the shelf     beside the sprig of heatherFrom the Brontës’ moors     and handed it to me     a sprig that looked      Alive still     of green heather     from across the sea

Feature Date


Selected By

Share This Poem

Print This Poem

Photo of Shane McCrae

Shane McCrae’s most recent books are Sometimes I Never Suffered, a finalist for the T. S. Eliot Prize and the Rilke Prize, and The Gilded Auction Block, both published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. He has received a Lannan Literary Award, a Whiting Writer’s Award, an Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the New York Foundation for the Arts. He lives in New York City and teaches at Columbia University.

Cain Named the Animal expands upon the biblical, heavenly world that McCrae has been building throughout his previous collections; he writes of Eden, of the lost tribe that watched time enter the garden and God rehearse the world, and of the cartoon torments of hell. Yet for McCrae, these outer bounds of our universe are inseparable from the lives and deaths on Earth, from the mundanities and miracles of time passing and people growing up, growing old, and growing apart. As he writes, “God first thought time itself / Was flawed but time was God’s first mirror.”

Poetry Daily Depends on You

With your support, we make reading the best contemporary poetry a treasured daily experience. Consider a contribution today.