The Letter Writer

This poem was originally published by Carcinogenic Poetry on July 24, 2011.

The Letter Writer

The tip of the pen had worn away
and scratched at the page,
making him shudder the way hard chalk
scraping on a blackboard once did.
Still, just one more letter to write.

One more letter. No one writes letters anymore,
not with a pen with a broken tip.

It would be easier on a computer–
e-mail. Just hit send, and it’s done before
there’s time to think, do I want to send this?
Computers are safer. They protect
him the way his own handwriting cannot.
But his computer’s in a dark
room inside an empty house.

A room void of other breath but
his own. He thinks he’d rather hear
the scratching. At least here, men
with great rings of keys pass back and forth
with great practiced ceremony,

pushing brooms, wearing rags
on their belts, coughing phlegm. Not pretty.
Not like a friend
would be.
Not what a dog or cat
could be. But still he prefers

the company of their loneliness
to such silent dependency,
the smell of ammonia and polish to
sour milk and rotting grapes
behind the beer in the fridge at home.

He wants to like this place. This time.
But he can’t. The letter’s unfinished and
the pen won’t let him. He thinks
a new pen, one that didn’t scrape
but rolled as easy as the surf

would make this place perfect.
The words would spill out the way milk
Leaks from a mother’s breast. We’ve
become too private,
he writes and then
throws the paper away because

that’s all there is that’s left to be.

© Joseph Saling and The New Word Mechanic, 2012.

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