Pushing the Envelope

When was the last time you wrote a letter to someone and mailed it – you know, just the regular old way of mailing, in an envelope, with a stamp? When was the last time you received a letter? If you feel nostalgic for the old times of letters and envelopes, this anthology of epistolary poems is for you. If you belong to the generation that never used this ancient mode of communication, push the envelope! In the words of the editor, Jonas Zdanys, these poems “continue a long letter writing tradition, some two thousand years old, and […] gather together distinctive voices and personal explorations of the form.” Check it out HERE.

My contributions to the anthology – a letter and an envelope:

LETTER FROM MOTHERLAND

My Faraway Daughter,

A good thing you’ve decided to write the story of your life
and to start with your first winter. What was it like?
you ask. I remember

I’d wake up at five and stare at the nightlight. I’d study
the mist of my breath, feel the formidable cold
of the stove.
Not a stove – a block of black ice that has invaded us
through the chimney, an informer, ensconced in a dark
overcoat, writing down the colors of dreams.
A stove so like the stocky man who took away your father
for owning a degenerate capitalist record:
Elvis’ Christmas Album.
This happened on a strangely warm day, like spring:
December 13, 1957.
Then temperatures dropped by 60 degrees.

Cloaked in a blanket, I’d descend to the basement.
Back with a bucket of coal. Feed the stove.
But the matches would break. Some would just smoke
without flame.
Finally, the damp, unread newspaper caught fire.
The splinters screamed but didn’t wake you up.
Only when the fire began to hum
your gray eyes opened huge
to the stove’s red riot, its round lid jumping up.
I’d extract you from Grandma’s embroidered coverlets
warm and wet. The day began
with your tiny, sharp fingernails on my swollen breast.
The robust certainty of your lips: you will not starve.
Your bottom – washed, dried, talcumed, kissed
almost sitting on a cloth nappy warmed by the stove.
Your toothless grin. My vow to spare you
true stories, false friends, and the wearing of black.

As the day unbundled its face, I’d go about my chores
thinking up answers to the questions
you’ll start asking soon
after you eat from another tree.

Will write again.
Love,
Mom

ENVELOPE FROM A LEAP YEAR

I open the wax­-sealed envelope: a day of summer towards the end
of a long winter. Father and I on a yellow tandem. We pedal quickly
but are not moving. I like this. My brother in the garden, still a baby
crawling toward a blue-­green caterpillar, never reaching it.
A tawny puppy perpetually chasing its tail. My mother on the porch
at her sewing machine. She is hemming a length of white cotton
without thread, without making any noise. We are happy. Suddenly
a buzz. An invisible bee hitting a window pane. Am I the only one
who hears it? I jump off the bike and follow the noise. It leads me
to the window of my room. The pane is all iced save for a small opening
scratched by the bee. I look through this peephole: inside, winter continues.
I step back, slowly fold the day, put it back in the envelope, moisten
the glue on the flap with my tongue and seal Being & Becoming together.

Talk to me, if you feel like.