In the Mailbox


Unshaven, Stepfather avoids the mailbox.
Letters pile up, clogging its metal throat. The snow
covering the driveway is gray as Detroit’s cough.

The child delivers letters into the house.
Mother knows the mailbox brings bad news.
But what can she do? Under the glare

of the kerosene lamp, her husband’s glasses are shields.
Inside the letters, relatives from Lebanon whisper.
His scarred hands turn pages until the envelopes are clean.

In Lebanon, the war has insomnia. The child builds
a cushion-fortress on the sofa. Uniformed men
fire into the mailbox each morning. It must be this way.

The child plays in the ambivalent light of dusk.
The clouds try on different colors, but the sun
leaves anyway. The sleeping child,

like a letter, receives the moon’s signature.
Restless in the living room, Stepfather chain-smokes.
Mother lights the kerosene lamp before they make love.

The mailbox is pregnant again next morning.
Though she cleans the floors passionately,
he still leaves. She watches from the sofa as he packs.

She places the letters in the trash and sells
the sofa at a yard sale. She cleans and cleans.

The mailbox calls. She won’t answer his letters.

Katherine Sanchez Espano