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Lisa Roullard, three poems

When I Am an Envelope, White #10

I will keep a space. A flat pocket

my gift to give, obvious

and secret.

Consider the seashell with a twist:

exactly where it spirals

into itself cannot be

completely seen.

I’ll hold out hope that someone

will mail the sea.

Will it be the same,

what the waves write in my shell?

From a tunnel of pearl, the ever-roar

releasing gently.

When I Am a Letter

It will be proper pleasure

and I am prepared

to be black ink, self-saying.

I, too, will be the page:

forest after white

forest wandering

within edges.

There will flit the chickadee,

whistle and song

of handwriting, black-capped

and common.

There will crook the stream,

sunlit in spots,

a surfacing vein.

But in this forest, letter

alive, there will flick

the ravenous,

the unraveling.

The tree struck by lightning

will strike me too:

vulnerable and solid.

Charred and stark and upright.

I will write with that char,

left-handed as the heart

which often smears

what it has to say.

What Should Open

The letters were written, each in black roller ball ink

on legal paper, the long yellow sheets like sunshine

vined with shade. They began, each, Dear Dad,

and sprouted into hedgerows, the handwritten

voice that carries on brimming, an expert gardener

who’s walked the grounds for decades, pruners in left back

pocket, wheeling the blue wheelbarrow, the kneeling pad stuck with

pine needles. Orange bucket and dandelion digger. Gloves for wet,

for dry, for thorns; the small and large rakes.

The letters were delivered, each to the mailbox of the father,

each sealed by the son’s certain tongue. The father touched them

at least once and tossed them in the Impala’s trunk, which, until

mail arrived again, stayed shut. Shut as the eye intent

on not seeing. The bud that shoots up from the rosebush in November.

The stem declares itself ruddy and strong. Hope crafts the petals

yellow. Then the frost, impartial with its cover, its arrests.

What should open appears clenched.

The letters were discovered, each by the writer,

the son, at the house now and cleaning: the complete go through,

the emptying. The muted father needs help to live.

It’s time to move. Another unmarked box and here they are, each envelope

crisp and slim as if young, which he was when he wrote them, the son,

each trembling with memory, with questions.

Does he give them again to his father? The tow truck

releases the dumpster. This box as weightless as the one

in the greenhouse: packet upon packet of intact, outdated seed.

Editor's note: (the above poem was published in a slightly smaller font to preserve Roullard's line breaks)


Lisa Roullard’s poetry has recently appeared in Sugar House Review, Atlanta Review, and Hawaii Pacific Review. Her work has also appeared on buses in Boise, Idaho, as part of Poetry in Motion. As often as possible she walks in the rain.




I write about what asserts itself, what doesn’t let go. Sometimes it’s something I see on a walk—a trumpet vine overtaking a power pole, for example, and sometimes it’s a phrase that rises up in my mind. One day that phrase was “the mailman in the forest.” Thus began the writing of poems exploring the world of mail. The tangible aspects of letters—stationary, stamps, return address labels—as well as the possibilities of correspondence captivated me as a child. Who might write me a letter? What would it say? When would it get here? The potential for surprise was delightful, plus there was a person dedicated to the pickup and delivery of mail as well as a special box to house it in, a special truck to carry it. Perhaps I liked the realm of mail because I could participate in it equally even though I was a child.

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