No Auction

Mixed in with a bundle of continuing education
junk mail, she pulls out a letter
originally postmarked August 17, 1981. No explanation
for how it made its snail
of all snails way to her current mail box

given how many addresses and lives
she has slipped through in 30 years. This is a poem,

not a documentary on the US Postal Service. She doesn’t
recognize the return address—all but rubbed out
from decades of dodging the dead
letter office. She hesitates to open it
for fear it will crumble in her fingers—sender

identity lost in a palm
full of stationery dust. Swallowing hard, she tears
from the top. Is jarred
by the careful construction
of each letter to each word. Such elegance

from a male hand. She instantly recognizes
the handwriting. It’s from you.

A brief missive. Spending a week on the Cape
with relatives before returning
to another school year of pushing numbers
to students the way someone else might sell the alphabet—
C&M, H, LSD, MJ, PCP. It ends:

My dear, my heart is breaking
as I realize you are gone

forever. Next time we meet, you will no longer be
a teenage girl dolled up in blushes
and high heels. Were they for me? You will be
an adult—I will be too intimidated to touch

even a strand of your hair. Next time
we meet, you won’t remember how
I say your name. My dear, this is life. Trust me
when I say it’s for the best.

All that we mourn today becomes enriched sod
we use tomorrow to keep growing. Or we perish.

Carefully folding and tucking the letter away, she wonders
how she got so lucky to receive mail from the dead.

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