I've just opened another letter and I find there is more!


I know you and Father did not want me to be wood. Maybe that is why you forced men of metal on me later, because if I wasn't metal, maybe our babies would be. You are crystal, but metal grinds and scratches crystal; you must have known how many times I was scratched and scarred. How many times has he hurt you, mother, willing or not? With the first metal boy, I told myself it wasn't him, I didn't put together the scratches and his hard edges. But his sharp bones tore the skin off my breast, and soon I could see notches and scoring in the wood underneath. I was young and I was in love and so I bore the pain, until a large mass had grown there and every caress was agony; you know I left him then. I would not let the other men of metal so close to me, but they, too, cut at my skin and always left me bleeding; the scar in my chest did not heal.

I told Father I would never be with another man of metal. He was angry, and now I think, what parent wouldn't be? "My child does not like those like me, and perhaps she does not love me." But of course Father didn't say it that way: he was not negotiating for his daughter's love but dictating his legacy. He yelled and screamed, and then was quiet, only saying it would be no other way. I left to prove him wrong.

I sat torn and bleeding in a forest, crying by myself. The earth beneath me was familiar and I almost thought I might see pale, bright white branches above my head, but the limbs were brown as the wood beneath my skin during the day, and just shadows against the moon at night. For a long time I sat beneath them, listening to the leaves in the wind and measuring time by the quiet beat of sap rapping on the ground.

And suddenly the whole forest moved. Winds tore through and the undergrowth flew around my head until all I could see was a dark haze of plants and soil and leaves. Brambles tore at my body and nettles whipped across my face. I was lifted in the air, then thrown up into the sky, spiraling above the trees again. Up there the winds were more gentle and there was no heavy dust or plants, so I just floated, always circling but not fearful.

I began to fall, far from our forest, far from our home. I felt giddy again, for a time, as I fell. The winds picked up beneath me and they pushed back at me so I didn't fall too fast, and I landed in a pile of loose soil tossed by the sudden storm. I lay there for some time, still bleeding from new and old wounds, but I had forgotten Father's selfish demands, and I no longer cried.

When I got up I could see someone else, a man, through the boughs of white sycamore, thin birch, unwieldy oak. He was sitting against a tree, looking in my direction. For a while we stared at each other across the distance, then he got up and walked steadily towards me.

We laughed about the sudden winds and told each other about where we had come from. I lied at first, then gave that up because I didn't care enough to lie.

He sat down beside me and I could see a scar on his nose. I asked about it and he told me he had once played hide and seek in the woods with his wife and had suddenly jumped behind a tree and onto a sharp rock. It had bled forever, he said.

His wife had died the year before. She was wood, like me and like him, and she had fallen to the wasps. He found her, alone in bed, her left cheek taken over by a flaky nest crawling with wasp young. Her mouth was open and her body was limp, but her eyes focused on him as he came in. There was nothing to do, so he held her hand until the focus was gone. And then until her hand cooled.

I looked at him as he told me this story, then I imagined her looking, focusing on him as the grubs ate at the wood behind her face. Then I imagined it was me looking up at him.

When the storm came up, he was playing a game of hide and seek in his own forest with no one. He rose, and then came down, tumbling, tumbling, tumbling. He said that when he stopped tumbling from the sky he wished that he could keep tumbling. He looked into my eyes, and my hand moved to my cheek and found it smooth and soft.

And so I found this man of wood, this man I love. When we first met, the bump with its knots and pits scraped his flesh and he bled in turn, until his skin also was worn away. But wood gives, and over time his chest rubbed and smoothed down and wore away at the bump, until the wood over both our hearts was polished to luster, and though the skin has healed and grown back I can feel the wood beneath is a beautiful burnish.

I love you,