Issue 539 | Correspondence | The Sun Magazine


After reading Lyn Lifshin’s “The Pearls” [August 2020], I go to my jewelry box. There they are, nestled in a velvet bed. They belonged to my mother. I’ve neglected them for years, just like Lifshin describes doing in her poem. Unless routinely worn next to the skin, they say, pearls lose their luster. Don’t we all.

So, on they go.

Patti Sullivan San Luis Obispo, California

Owen Cason’s essay “For a Future You” [August 2020] moved me to tears.

I volunteer at a food pantry, and a woman came in seeking assistance one day because her teenage daughter’s situation was similar to that of Cason’s niece. The woman had quit her job to take care of her daughter, who could not have a birthday cake because she required a feeding tube to eat.

You never really know how crushing another person’s grief can be. Seeing it firsthand is a humbling experience.

T. Ruzzo Ocean Gate, New Jersey

Thanks for printing Jim Harrison’s poem “Easter Morning” on the Dog-Eared Page [August 2020]. I found out about Harrison’s death the day after he died: on Easter morning, 2016.

Just a couple of months earlier singer David Bowie had died, and I’d argued with some friends who were overcome with emotion at his passing. “How could you care so much for someone you never met?” I asked. They assured me I simply didn’t understand. And I didn’t — until Harrison died. When I read the news, I pushed back my chair and wept. He was a teacher for many of us right up to the end — and still is.

Chris La Tray Missoula, Montana

Benjamin S. Grossberg’s poem “The Hairdresser” [July 2020] made me think of my mom, who passed away last year at the age of eighty-nine. Two months before she died, I took her on her last trip to her hairdresser, Darlene.

Since my mom had lost her independence and was at an assisted-living facility, the weekly trip to the hairdresser had become a focal point on her calendar. And even though my mom was not one to talk much about personal issues, Darlene had become an important confidante.

Although my mom’s hair was wispy, Darlene was able to puff it up, and she left with some sense of normality in her life.

Gail Husson San Leandro, California

For years I’ve facilitated small group discussions for the Catholic Church, and much of what Jared Seide said about the stressful lives of those who are imprisoned or in law enforcement rang true [“The Power of Story,” interview by Hazel Kight Witham, June 2020]. We all need to rediscover the humanity in the other.

Seide should consider using his techniques at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. His description of a beat cop’s daily, unresolved cycle of fear and anxiety sounds like what our Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans deal with.

Walt Sears Hilliard, Ohio

I’ve had a love affair with The Sun for more than twenty years. Some issues I can’t bring myself to give away. April 1995 and July 1998 rest comfortably in my filing cabinet. Now I must add June 2020, because the series of letters between Ross Gay and his pal Noah Davis [“The Ramshackle Garden of Affection”] made me cry.

Gay writes to Davis, “You have to revere and exalt tenderness.” (In this particular letter Gay uses the word tenderness thirteen times.) He always signs his letters, “Love, Ross,” and Davis replies in kind.

This called to mind Sy Safransky’s interview with mythologist Michael Meade in the January 1994 issue, where Meade says witnessing someone crying is “another definition of what I call the water of life, when those tears come from that deep well of human sympathy, human sorrow. At that point we’re human. We’re connected.”

Dianea Kohl Ithaca, New York

My middle-aged female friends and I often discuss our disappointment with the men in our lives, who seem universally unable to engage in meaningful conversation or take an interest in anything beyond video games, their record collections, or fantasy sports teams. So I was thankful for the sensitivity, affection, and self-expression displayed in Ross Gay and Noah Davis’s “The Ramshackle Garden of Affection.”

Mara Thomas Durham, North Carolina

In the hectic, hopeful years that I was busy having children and building a life with a charismatic and broken man, I’d stay up late reading your magazine with a flashlight so as not to disturb my kids. Some nights I’d wolf down the whole issue in one sitting. The Sun touched me in a way no other publication ever had. The writing was gritty and reverent, unadorned and unpretentious.

How can I say this? Somehow, without meeting any of you, I felt like I had found my tribe.

My subscription survived a move to Canada and the dissolution of my marriage, but life as a single mother was hard, and the day came when I could not afford to renew. I still remember that final issue and the silence that followed.

One of my kids is now a goofy engineering student. The other is mostly through vet school. I own my own house, surrounded, almost fiercely, by flowers. And this spring I could finally afford to subscribe again.

I had changed so much from the foolish young mother who was confident she could change the world. The world had won. The world had changed me. I worried The Sun might seem saccharine and contrived to me now.

I am partway through the June 2020 issue, and already I have cut out a poem and taped it to my fridge. That man who brings people together to listen to each other’s truths? That woman who struggled to stay alive, one careful breath at a time, with COVID-19? That woman who wrote poetry to prepare for her suicide? Every single reader who wrote about “Fear”? I feel, for the first time in a long time, proud to be a messy flop of a human. I’ve missed you guys.

Calloway M'Cloud Prince Edward Island

I had initially skipped Kate Osterloh’s short story “Maryam and Yeshua” [May 2020] because I figured it was yet another imagining of Mary Magdalene as a romantic lover of Jesus. After seeing the letters to the editor praising it as something really different, I went back and read it. But it wasn’t different at all.

Why must people insist that Jesus had a lover? Is platonic love really so hard for us to imagine? Couldn’t Jesus have been asexual or so focused on his mission as to ignore any carnal feelings? Jesus was a holy, spiritual being. Why do we want so desperately to make him just like our earth-bound selves?

Andrea Zastrow Washington Court House, Ohio
Kate Osterloh responds:

As an imperfect creature marked by yearning, I find little to move me in the story of a god untouched by human hunger, doubt, or anguish. But I am moved when I think about a man not trying to escape but to fulfill his humanity, and the friends who witnessed him, and the woman who washed and buried his body. In that story I see dark and light joined together, like thread yearning to be one with the wool it stitches. In the yearning is the thing’s completion.

The Sun is like very good chocolate: I try to make it last, and when it is done, I crave more.

The Sun is like a new hiking trail: I start out not knowing what to expect, and after going uphill and down, I return refreshed in mind and soul.

The Sun is like waking up in bed with someone: My eyes open, and I see I’m not alone.

Cutty Moriah, New York


In our September 2020 interview with Rachel Louise Snyder, we erroneously implied that Snyder had met a woman whose husband kept a rattlesnake in a cage at their home. She did not meet the woman, but she did write about her in her book No Visible Bruises. The Sun regrets the error.

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