LETTERS AND TRAINS
Letters arrive as if by train at a station platform
The puff and steam from men of all sizes and power.
Awaiting crowds crammed and craning on deck
To see the size and heft of it and in the mouth of it.
Peering, like through small car windows, even
from the corner, across from government art.
Himself the towering locomotive between two tracks of tables
Is the Conductor, steeped in blue with loops of keys, shouts:
“Mail Call,” “Mail Call,” “Last Call for Mail Call”
And shouting the names, Lopez, White, Hernandez, Coker…
All listen, the hopeful closer, the privileged closest,
The lost or forgotten eerily busy in their houses.
The mail bag emptied, the men exhale the final steam.
My name is called and I run alongside, late, waving
The loved ones have arrived, sent by partners, family.
My passengers manifest and take my hand, overhead
passing through packed uniforms to my numbered house.
Stacked by subject; letters, newspapers, novels, law.
First, we chat and laugh out loud as we used to do.
The stories alive and memories return like the children
In The Color Purple, in majestic colors
And we later sit in silence too, like we used to do.
In school, at the firm, at home, before court.
I then introduce them to others, interested or in need.
Sometimes we have no visitors among arrivals
So we return the next day and each succeeding day
Turned away, hard men blink like boys.
Sometimes it takes years to stop greeting the train
Most often we never stop, still watching, listening, hoping
Such is the power and allure of letters in prison.