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Wendy Elizabeth Ingersoll, two poems

Getting Mail

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...

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