for Annette Allen
I think of the mail,
how eager I am to receive it,
though there are mostly ads & bills
& coupons for things I’ll never buy.
I think of the sun
parting the white grain of the curtains,
& the stamp of her feet on the stairs—
that woman in blue with the brown satchel.
Then, of the metal box squeaking
on its rusty hinge, & the bright red door
closing again, followed by a gust of crisp air.
I pull back the curtains to watch her go.
So today I ask myself, why shouldn’t death come
with the ease of such pleasing & ordinary ritual?
Why shouldn’t I look on her as I have looked so often
on our sweet-faced mail carrier, trudging through the deep snow?
I think of a distant winter,
& though I can’t predict the place or year,
I hear those footsteps again, that daily music
of a key turning the lock & the fresh rustle of papers.
I rush down the stairs,
for we are always agile in our imaginations.
I slide the envelope free from the slot, taking note of
the elegant penmanship, the absence of postage.
There I stand at the threshold, my breath
fogging the glass of the many-paned door.
There she waves from the curbside, one gloved hand raised.
“Open it,” her parting lips seem to say.
Yes, I’m sure of this now. Death is a letter
that comes on an ordinary day. You make a
quick incision with your finger, & a note—
small, square—falls out in your hand.
It has to be, please let it be, an invitation.