When the postman refuses to deliver mail
to my cousin’s box across the road
and under a myrtle straddled by roses,
cause so many ants brawl inside
that whenever he stuffs the phone bill in
he fears assault,
my cousin calls the Post Office.
She asks about her options.
Cut down the tree they say,
our computer will not allow
variation of mailbox location,
it’s programmed in.
My cousin’s face
gets red as she tells me.
Changing a mailbox,
like changing a tire,
a diaper, a husband,
is not so easy we agree.
I begin to get a bit red in the face myself.
My group reminds me weekly
it’s not in my job description to mend the planet,
nor even the Eastern Seaboard. But
nothing comes cheap, not even
mail. That night
driving past my father’s broken-down box
I turn the headlights off, follow blackout
up the lane. I think I see his shadow,
familiar, trudging ahead.
I speed up, night quickly
fills in the spaces, he’s gone. Sometimes
we need to look sideways
to see in the dark.
Agnes Smith, who owns the field
beside our lane and across from my cousin,
swears she’ll cut that myrtle down, raze the roses.
When I lose dad I pull over,
scan her land: rows of corn stalks
chopped off at the knees, drowning
in yellow weeds. The opposing side
is orchard, grass waving high,
sea without shore, pear trees struggling
above the surface, trunks submerged.
Maybe that’s where Dad
hides. In the end my cousin confides
in the postal powers. Her phone bill now is delivered
to a new box at her gate, no ants,
contented mailman. I’m sixty-seven years
and I know what I know, which is sometimes
it’s Who you know.
Crossing the Neuse
to reach Days Inn after the game Friday night:
the floods below have slowed their tumble and topple,
there’s barely a skim of foam, as if
deepest waters lift stillness to the surface.
Everything I have ever known
my seventy years of life I’m doggy-paddling through,
like uttering again the name
of someone unaddressed for twenty years:
strange and yet familiar as my image
backwards in the sideview mirror. Before he died
my father whispered his life to me
and I made daughter-poems, not always
sweet. Crossing the Neuse, I conjure
me riding shotgun on the tractor, feet
braced against the axle shield and Dad
alive at the wheel— we pass the last row
of stalks and husks, cross the county line, chug west
across the Bay Bridge, high above heave, we never
queue at the booth, never pay the toll,
we just keep rolling like the wide Bay beneath,
watch it make its own face anew with every
groundswell surging up from deepest brine
to sun and air.
Wendy Elizabeth Ingersoll is from Delaware...