Poem: Stamps

eadt woodbridge

Photo from the EADT, from some time before the coronavirus crisis

I had to go to the post office today, walking through the shopping street of the market town where I live.  It was much busier than it has been, which is good for trade, but means you have to engage in a complex dance of awareness and courtesy to give people enough room, especially near those who seem to be moving to music all of their own and not noticing the paths of others.  There is some anxiety even seeing your neighbours and friends, trying to remember to keep your distance, and suppress the desire to be close, to hug perhaps.

I remembered this poem as I was at the counter, which I shared with you some time ago.  I remembered it as I felt the absence of the connection I associate with running errands in the town, a lack of touch, and often of looks and smiles, as we seek to navigate a world where we look different in our masks, and sometimes don’t yet recognise each other in these new guises.

It’s a poem about contact and connection through a perspex barrier, how we long for such connection, and seek to make it.  It is also a poem about the gentleness we can adopt with strangers, not knowing the sadness, the burdens, they may be carrying.  It seems an appropriate poem for today.

 

Stamps

Two of the blinds were down,
Position Closed, but yours
hovered, unreadable, just
above your head.

There was   no queue,
and I approached you
cautiously,
clutching thick manila
envelopes.

Are you open? I asked.
As you raised your head,
I saw trails of tears down
your smudged cheeks,
such large heavy drops.

First class, two –
I’m so sorry.
You smiled, and
I stretched out my
hand and touched
fingertips to the glass,

Passed warm coins
through, which you
held a moment,
then gave me stamps,
straightening your back.

 

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