Ode to the Postal Worker

I received a check in the mail today, a lovely surprise! 

Ode to the Postal Worker

Who took the work,
yes, because he wanted job security
and government benefits,
but more because she remembers before the computer,
when mail was more than ad inserts,
the thrill of getting a birthday card from her grandmother,
the spidery script on the envelope promising a five spot
and a pen pal in school,
a whole box which smelled like cinnamon
from a city sister in India.
There were postcards from his aunt
who vacationed in Florida,
stamps like entries from the encyclopedia,
crocodiles and flamingos, presidents and poinsettias.
She’d mailed off box tops and waited for the prize.

It’s almost one of those obsolete jobs,
like before the fax machine,
the bike messenger zinging around Manhattan,
or a town butcher, where women would come in
dressed like garden flowers,
the doctor who made house calls
and was offered coffee,
his diagnosis delivered at the kitchen table.

He might have listened to stories from
veteran carriers, who at eighty had calves still taut and tan,
who delivered air mail from soldiers,
sniffing it clandestinely for a sweetheart’s perfume.
Through snow or rain or heat or gloom of night,
they felt like Churchill bringing the troops home,
even if John Doe was dead in a foxhole,
for at least today, they’d delivered hope.

Ode to the washed out blue uniform,
the shoulder bag slung, the little white jeeps
that tuck themselves in when you whiz past,
a salute for anthrax scares and dog bite scars.
We once chatted for twenty minutes,
my mail lady and I,
traded stories about exes and children,
hometowns and hubbies,
all the while she held my mail,
in her blue latex-gloved hand,
a ransom I was willing to pay.