I was enthralled by Finn Cohen’s interview with Justin E.H. Smith [“Speaking of Tongues,” May 2023]. It reminded me of a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Language is fossil poetry.” The words we speak every day feel natural, but they have a complex history of their own. As I learn more about the science of linguistics, I realize that it can teach us as much about human history as archaeology and anthropology can.

James P. Lenfestey Minneapolis, Minnesota

Finn Cohen and Justin E.H. Smith’s conversation made me think of trips my sister and I have taken together. Over the past fifty years we have visited many countries where we don’t speak the language. We learn key phrases and niceties before we go, but when we get flustered, we often fall into an unholy mix of Japanese, French, Czech, Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian — anything hiding in the folds of our memory that may be of linguistic service. Though humiliating, this jumble has facilitated connections with some lovely people. Isn’t that the point of travel?

Cynthia Ryan Seattle, Washington

Kate Vieira’s essay “All-American” [May 2023] reminded me of the first time I tried out for cheerleading. I was in sixth grade, and the high-school cheerleaders came to teach us. One of the cheers had me clapping, turning, and chanting all at once. I spelled spirit “S-P-R-I-T” and finished facing the wrong way. I didn’t make the squad that year (despite learning to spell), but eventually I did. A part of me still feels like a cheerleader today, almost fifty years later.

Leah Narro Greenville, South Carolina

“All-American” by Kate Vieira took me back to my teenage years as an aspiring ballerina. When practicing pirouettes on pointe and grand jetés in class, I felt like I was flying. Here was a place where I finally fit in, even though I was painfully shy. But all that was taken away when Madame informed me that I was too tall to be a professional ballerina. No man would be able to lift me, she said. And my back muscles weren’t strong enough. She claimed there was nothing else she could teach me.

With time I have come to embrace my intellectual spirit and fly in a different way, but I am grateful to Vieira for showing me that my teenage self was never really alone.

Peg Mulcahy Latrobe, Pennsylvania

T.J.O.’s story about Paco in your May 2023 Readers Write on “Tattoos” brought me to tears. With just a few words the author painted a picture of his incarcerated friend that was as intimate and meaningful as the tattoos covering Paco’s body.

Ken Kesegich South Euclid, Ohio

Staci Kleinmaier’s interview with Molly Worthen [“Losing Our Religion,” April 2023] led me to explore writing, by Worthen and others, on the topics of spirituality and faith in contemporary America, which I likely would not have done otherwise. The Sun continually sparks my curiosity about the world.

Kelly Barker Bastrop, Texas

Camille Guthrie really hit the nail on the head with her short story “Dating Profile” [April 2023]. It made me whoop in laughter. It is a perfect portrayal of how many mature, single women feel about dating.

A date used to be about spending time with someone and getting to know them. Now it seems to involve immediately jumping into bed with them and figuring the rest out afterward. Or not.

Diana Smith Stamford, Connecticut

I have never related so strongly to a short story. More, please, from Camille Guthrie.

Robin Amestoy Sequim, Washington

On Seeing a Sex Surrogate” by Mark O’Brien [The Dog-Eared Page, April 2023] was a touching account of the author’s struggle with disability. O’Brien was courageous to seek out a surrogate and to write about his experience. At times while reading his essay, I momentarily forgot that he was living in an iron lung. It made my annoyances seem trivial.

Marilyn Lee Anchorage, Alaska

Laugh-out-loud comedy is not the first thing I associate with The Sun, but that’s what I found in Leath Tonino’s essay “Updating My Bio” [April 2023]. I read it twice for more laughs.

Barbara Murphy Evanston, Illinois

I was disappointed that there were so few mentions of ethical nonmonogamy and polyamorous relationships in your Readers Write on “Dating Apps” [April 2023]. Dating apps are one of the most common ways that people who practice polyamory meet each other. I believe there would be less infidelity if more of us understood that attraction to multiple people is normal and that monogamy is actually a choice (though rarely a conscious one). Monogamy culture is rooted in religious persecution and settler colonialism and has a stranglehold on our sexuality.

Eleanor Burke Everson, Washington

My eyes lit up when I saw Poe Ballantine’s short story “The Blue Devils of Blue River Avenue” featured in the March 2023 Dog-Eared Page. I hadn’t realized how much I missed his writing, and I immediately returned to your October 2006 issue to reread his essay “Blessed Meadows for Minor Poets.”

In the introduction to “The Blue Devils of Blue River Avenue,” Ballantine mentions that Victoria Leigh Miller thought the story was “so well written that it should have made Poe Ballantine a star.” She was right on the mark.

Cheryl Vanni Eugene, Oregon

I’m from the Midwest, but I’m incarcerated in the Deep South. In “Unsheltered” [interview by Thacher Schmid, February 2023] Eric Tars discusses the Thirteenth Amendment and how it abolished slavery except as a condition of incarceration. This loophole, Tars says, was created so that formerly enslaved people could be forced back into the fields to pick cotton. It’s important for people to know that this isn’t hyperbole. It continues today, and the majority of people working the fields are Black and brown.

At Memorial Unit (formerly Darrington Unit) prison in Texas, men pick cotton. I am in a female prison, and the rumors are that the cotton crop may be coming here, because women’s hands are smaller. Currently we work without pay doing other field work, which is the only job in the prison that doesn’t help us make parole. Many of my friends who have been released are now living in their cars, their bodies worn down from years of unpaid forced labor.

Kwaneta Harris Gatesville, Texas

On February 13, 2023, I received a text from my son, a freshman at Michigan State University. “There’s an active shooter on campus,” it said. I barely breathed for the next four hours as my son hid in his barricaded dorm room and texted updates, including a lot of terrifying speculation spread by friends who were listening to police scanners.

A few days later I was finally able to hug my son and stay with him in a hotel room for a couple of nights. While he was sleeping, I pored over the February 2023 issue of The Sun. I couldn’t hold back the tears when I read the poem “The Big Picture,” by Ellen Bass. It encapsulated all of the love, fear, and longing I had been feeling but could not express, especially in lines like “There never was / anything else. Only these excruciatingly / insignificant creatures we love.” In an age of fake news, irresponsible laws, and incomprehensible tragedies, I can always count on The Sun to speak the truth.

Amy Wolgemuth Bordoni St. Charles, Illinois