What We Carry


Some things we took for granted vanished
long ago: a store, a mall, a whole strip of shopping

plaza, an entire country we grew up in, moving
state to state, where borders were just road signs,

no one spoke of blue and red or voter bent
or waves to change the nation’s constitution. We were blank

slates. Midterms were examinations. Remember when?
This life is not a test, and we’ve long outgrown

open-ended choices. I’m giving you my oyster
and my watch: will you please be my witness?

We’ve survived the shrinking of human concern
for endangered grasshopper sparrow, carcinogens

in pesticides and too much ultraviolet light
but regret to say we live within a threatened habitat.

At 6 p.m., the mail carrier enters my cul-de-sac,
to collect what I and all my neighbors give her,

but I’d lie if I said I don’t dream unfolding aerograms
that could hold nothing, yet delivered

my father’s world to me, featherlight and flown
across the sea. I still see them, ghostlike

nestled in with cards of sympathy,
congratulations, confessions of impossible affairs.

They, too, vanished. Mailboxes open, close
like gates to territory lost, or mouths of birds

our hopeful hands still feed, the gone forever get,
the passages we carry inside.

Sarah Carey