Brought to you by the Guernica/PEN Flash Series


Dear Jack,

My spoon broke. My roommate moved out. You are almost six years old. The Olympics are starting. I have made a pair of plastic balls out of compressed plastic wrap. I only have three ballpoint pens left. I don’t like the color blue. I wrote a poem about a little girl who drowned in a river. There is a turkey sandwich in a paper sack at the foot of my bed. I just saw the flag of Bosnia and Herzegovina for the first time in my life. I have a little yellow plastic bead shaped like an elephant. It is standing on a small red, hexagonal box. The box is painted with glittery paint and has a picture of the Buddha on it. Inside is the 1,000th paper crane I folded wishing you would come visit me.

I have an Arabic language CD but no CD player. I wish my sister Alyssa didn’t have cancer. Today when I was working on my math I had trouble holding my left hand steady. Last Monday I taught a yoga class. It is possible to chew a piece of celery forever, because its cellulose does not break down. I’m writing a computer program to solve systems of non-linear equations. Since I don’t have a computer I’m writing it in my head. I have written 721 pages of letters to you. The paper I write letters to you on is 8” x 10.5”. I hate that. It’s supposed to be 8.5” x 11”.

My beard is long and the hair on my head is thin. I look in the mirror more than I used to. I own two rubber bands—no, wait, three…I just remembered I have a rubber band around a bundle of 26 artificial-sweetener packets. Happiness is easy.

I heard that lightning starts on the earth and strikes upward toward the sky. Unless my sister accidentally wrote the same name twice, I recently had two grandnephews born who are both named Carson. I get very nervous sometimes. The world is astonishingly beautiful. I don’t believe that our eternal destiny is determined by what we do in this lifetime. I love you.


This week’s piece comes to us from PEN American Center’s annual Prison Writing Contest, open to writers of fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and dramatic writing who are currently serving time in American correctional facilities. The original version of Christopher Meyers’s “Letter to My Grandnephew” was awarded third place in 2013 for memoir. What appears here has been edited for the series.

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