Check the (Physical) Mail

I dig out the tiny Hudson key, open
the mailbox, pull the contents
from the slot, some spilling
into a puddle
of print at my feet:

clothing catalogs, restaurant flyers,
a credit card application,
a nonprofit appeal for donations,
and one white envelope with
handwriting in black ink.

A real letter. A radical act.
Return address Honolulu, HI.
Before opening it, I pause
to consider the miracle
that is an old college buddy

who has committed to writing
and mailing a letter to a friend
each of the first 100 days
of the year. It’s round two for him.
And I’ve made the cut again.

An art form I once dedicated myself
to with a religious fervor.
Who knows how many I composed
during the peak years
between 1972-1994.

Boxes filled with replies
in all dimensions and thicknesses
stored in my closet.
I’ve saved them all.
Okay, there was that one

I ripped up and returned to sender.
(I kept a photocopy.)

Hundreds from my first pen pal,
my grandmother. Just as many
from my mother. Dozens and dozens
from my sisters, even a couple
from my brother. So many gems

from my father
I still don’t have the courage
to reread almost a decade
since his death. A potent mix
of loving guidance

and mirrored reflection,
soul responding to soul.

And all those missives from friends,
spanning bridges of time,
from elementary school
through college and beyond
to those years

in New York City and New Haven.
And those first few in Minnesota.
Love letters from old flames.
Could there be a greater
romantic gesture?

Postmarked Westwood, Kokomo, Mashpee,
Shaker Heights, Trenton, Indianapolis,
Arlington, Somerville, Madrid,
Cleveland, Auckland, Medina, London,
Lima, Athens, Cincinnati, Lagos.

A conglomeration of little anecdotes
and philosophies and emotions
exposed on paper.
I can hear the voices of the departed
sing with a simple unfolding.

I dwell in the delight
of the slowed
pace of it all.
Then I snap to.
Time to read Tim’s letter.

I know it will sparkle
with light and humor and a deep well
of unabashedly honest thoughts.
It will be a window opened
just enough on a cold March day

to capture a momentary gust
of who this person, Tim, is.

I savor the old anticipation
just a little longer,
then expertly slice open
the top of the envelope with my finger.
Like riding a bicycle.

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