Lately I have been working on an essay about my dog, Gigi. The essay is starting to feel long. It’s surpassed 13,000 words, and this is too many words for what I am trying to say.

So today, I’m considering this idea:

that the smallest phrases, those which stand on their own between silences, carry the most weight.

For example, poems.

Take a poem’s form—its visual appearance—on the page. Often, it’s the spaces on the page which speak as loud as the words themselves. (This is akin to when we speak out loud: when we pause mid-sentence, people wait expectantly for whatever it is we’ll say next).

So I want to write simple things, focus on a simple idea. Like relatives. Family. People I’ve grown up knowing. It’s often hard to write about family because this is where hurt often stems from, where uncomfortable memories are easier to recall than good ones. But, still, family cannot be avoided—and besides, sometimes they surprise us. The relative I want to write about today is the one who started me thinking about spaces. This blog post, appropriately, is thanks to her.

So, simple idea: a relative.

Simple goal: describe one image; use space to your advantage.

My father’s cousin, Elise,

wrote me a letter

in cursive, the words as big

as my thumb.

In the photos she included,

there were horses, heads bent

to the ground. I wanted to touch them.

I’d like to encourage you to try this prompt, too. Write a few sentences about a relative you love overwhelmingly—or not—and as you write, place the words on the page in a way that draws attention to the meaning or inflection of each word. How does the way they lie on the page affect how you or how others might read them?