Sunday, February 25, 2018

Poetry Sunday

As I noted earlier this week on my Facebook page, on February 20th, 1792, President George Washington signed into law the Postal Service Act, establishing the United States Post Office Department. Back then, communication by letter was very important, because there was as yet no other way to transfer information over long distances - the telephone, the telegraph, television, and the Internet - were all in the far future. I love to write (and receive) letters, although most people nowadays don't write anything longer than short text messages and tweets. As far as I'm concerned, though, the SMS and the tweet are poor substitutes for an ink-on-paper letter I can hold in my hand, a physical connection with the person on the other end that I can enjoy over and over again, even after the passage of years.

Today's poem celebrates the wonder of the nearly-lost art of communication by letter ...

Letter Home
by Ellen Steinbaum

I love you forever
my father's letter tells her
for forty-nine pages,
from the troopship crossing the Atlantic
before they'd ever heard of Anzio.

He misses her, the letter says,
counting out days of boredom, seasickness,
and changing weather,
poker games played for matches
when cash and cigarettes ran out,
a Red Cross package-soap,
cards, a mystery book he traded away
for The Rubaiyyat a bunkmate didn't want.
He stood night watch and thought
of her. Don't forget the payment
for insurance, he says.

My mother waits at home with me,
waits for the letter he writes day by day
moving farther across the ravenous ocean.
She will get it in three months and
her fingers will smooth the Army stationery
to suede.

He will come home, stand
beside her in the photograph, leaning
on crutches, holding
me against the rough wool
of his jacket. He will sit
alone and listen to Aïda

and they will pick up their
interrupted lives. Years later,
she will show her grandchildren
a yellow envelope with
forty-nine wilted pages telling her

of shimmering sequins on the water,
the moonlight catching sudden phosphorescence,
the churned wake that stretched a silver trail.

Have a good day. Write a letter to someone you love. You'll surprise them, and maybe you'll find a joy in doing things the "old way."

More thoughts tomorrow.



John Hill said...

Very nice!
Thank you for sharing this.

Mike said...

One of these days... No really!

eViL pOp TaRt said...

A very touching poem.