Love Letter to Rane Arroyo


“Why haven’t I / written more love letters?”  When remembering Rane Arroyo, this the last line of his poem “A Fake Owl,” will probably always come to mind.  The line sneaks up on you—after a poem’s worth about airports, Toledo, and a fake owl—and does what I believe it was meant to do; it asks a question of us, sincerely.  On first reading, my immediate thought was, “Yes! Why haven’t I?!” 

This poem showed up in my email box after several refreshing exchanges in which Rane and I discussed just which poems (old or new, long or short!) he would prefer to submit, and we to publish. “This is all new work that makes me scared because it's gangly, ugly, and I love it,” he wrote, “—like dating the wrong guy and having the time of your life.”  Yes, I thought.  I know exactly what you mean.  “Send more!” was my response.

“Why didn’t I write more emails to Rane Arroyo,” is the question I ask now, since his death in May of this year: because each exchange was full of the insight, humor and generosity that pervade his poems, and because he had the spirit of a contagiously forthcoming poet and friend, and because when, in only his second email to me he asked, “Are you taking care of yourself?” and because he reminded me that this too is an important question, if also one that is difficult to ask of ourselves and others. 

“I hate to disappoint people,” Rane wrote when I asked if we’d see him at the upcoming AWP Conference, which, for health reasons, he was unsure he would attend.  Yes, Rane.  I understand that, too.  We are only disappointed that you have left us so soon.  You are missed.

A Fake Owl

on the plain airport roof
              keeps the peeling airplanes
awake.  Or threatened?
              How have two handsome
men come to pass through
              creaky Toledo?  One looks
an agile actor because
              he earns everyone’s stare.
The other, in passé flannel
              and steel city boots, wears
winter without wincing.
              I, too, was young decades ago.
A marine grabs a wife with
              a pierced face.  Mail sacks are
thrown onto a tragic toy truck.
              Hoot!  Hoot!  But no one is
afraid or fleeing.  Why haven’t I
              written more love letters?


Rane Arroyo
, playwright, fiction editor, and poet, died on May 7, 2010.  He was a teacher of creative writing at the University of Toledo and was founding editor of New Sins Press. Awards for his poetry include the John Ciardi Poetry Prize, the Carl Sandburg Poetry Prize, an Ohio Arts Council Award for Excellence in Poetry, a Pushcart Prize and the Hart Crane Poetry Prize.  The Buried Sea: New and Selected Poems was published by University of Arizona Press in 2008, and his final collection, The Sky’s Weight by Turning Point Press in 2009. 


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