Poetry » Marne Wilson »

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Waiting for the Mailman

By my father’s proclamation,
our mailman was expected to arrive
precisely at one o’clock.
Some days it was a race to the wire,
with a late but urgent letter still issuing
from my mother’s Smith Corona.
When it was finished, I would be dispatched
to ride my bike as fast as I could to the mailbox,
drop the envelope inside, and raise the flag.
Oh, the defeat of returning home
with a batch of mail already arrived!
But if not, then the waiting would begin.

On sunny summer days when light seems to bounce forever,
we could see the reflection of his windshield
from several miles away.
Sometimes we would be fooled by a decoy:
a grain truck, a tractor,
a car rushing to an appointment in town.
But usually we guessed it just right,
for our mailman drove with the reckless abandon
of someone with miles to go before he slept.
Perhaps this was a sign of the carelessness
that had caused him to lose his arm
on the last day he called himself a farmer.
I prefer to think he was spurred by the image of my father,
sitting dourly in his chair,
staring out the window,
saying, “The mailman never comes”?

The Immortal

for S.L.C.

I once proclaimed you to be a mortal and I an immortal,
for I would continue existing in this place forever
while you would quickly move on to the next realm.
I don’t become involved with mortals, I said,
for they pass away too quickly,
leaving only anguish in their wake.
Better to look down upon you loftily
from the slopes of Olympus,
taking amusement from your actions
but always remaining detached.

In spite of that noble pronouncement,
I did attach myself to you in the end,
allowing myself to become accustomed to your face
and to measure the worth of my endeavors by its expressions.
Now you are leaving,
and I see that I was wrong from the beginning.
I am the mortal, tied to this one small existence,
while you are the immortal
with the whole world at your feet.

The Living Sacrifice

This one will do.
The skin of this onion is dry and complete,
peeling off easily in one piece.
Underneath, the surface is smooth and shiny,
the creamy perfection at the bottom gradating into green.
As I slice off the stem and roots,
several milky drops of liquid bleed out
and pool onto the cutting board.
I raise my blade and bisect the crisp flesh,
exposing the tiny green tendril at the center.
This is the very life of the onion,
but I know it would bring bitterness to my recipe.
I dig it out and toss it ruthlessly into the garbage pail.
All messy traces of life gone, the rest of the sacred root is fit
to be anointed with the oil and complete its sacrifice.