Mailing a Manuscript of Poems at the Post Office

 “Does this envelope contain any thing fragile, liquid, perishable or potentially hazardous?”


. . . anything . . . fragile?

From the Latin verb,  frango, frangere, to break, to shatter
A fragment of the Greek, hregnumi (‘ρηγνυμι ), also to break,
As in waves or battle lines or outbursts of emotion,
So if the question is, is there anything fragile here, the answer is yes,
For there is the sea and war and tears
Set out in words composed of inconstant letters
Which may break up or down for any reason
Into other words or fracture into singularity,
Although here within this envelope
They appear to be assembled in a momentary order.

 

. . . anything . . . liquid?


From the Latin adjective liquidus (so close, so close), fluid, flowing,
The poets Horace, Vergil and Catullus, users all,
The tributary ancient Greek, leibo (λειβω), to pour forth
As in libations, springs and perhaps speech,
So if the question is, is there anything liquid here, the answer is I hope so
For there is metre here and rhyme
A current of verse running from line to line
Spilling out of the mind and onto paper
To be blotted dry lest it flow away
In some imagined urgency to be elsewhere.


. . . anything . . .  perishable?


From the Latin verb pereo, perire, to pass away, to vanish,
Apparently unrelated to the Greek (or did that connection vanish?)
But said of ships, of shoes, of sealing wax, of cabbages and kings,
Of love and life, of law and lust,
So if the question is, is there anything perishable here, the answer
is I believe so.
For there is much talk of what must pass away,
Of wives or husbands, family and friends,
Of memory and skills, of appetite and time,
And finally, the poems themselves to disappear,
Discarded, banned or burned or come to paper’s dust.

 

. . . anything . . . potentially hazardous?


From the Latin adjective, potis, able or capable, filled with potential,
And from the French hasard, of risk or chance or danger
Stolen from the Arabic az-zahr, a game of dice
Winning or losing in uncertainty against the universe,
So if the question is, is there anything potentially hazardous here, I say yes
For there is the possibility of danger
In confession, revelation, provocation or surprise,
And of something to be risked,
Throwing the dice of letters where they may become words
Then, perhaps, be judged, remembered or forgotten.

Muddy River Review, 2011
Winner of the Gretchen Warren Award of the New England Poetry Club for best poem. 2012