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A Box of Old Letters

Poetry by

Richard Luftig

Found in the attic after I bought the place,
the address on the front always the same.
But the postmarks an atlas heading west,
always west down the Ohio to Cairo
then up the Mississippi to St Louis.
Each day took him farther and further

from her touch, through towns
with populations smaller than their area,
tree lines thinned then vanished, land bleached
like the bones of cattle lining the trail.
Places where quarter-sections were left
for dead, land, a disaster never more

than one drought away. And he pleading
for a letter, some word to expel the fears
of losing her that grew with each passing
mile, enclosing pressed flowers:
hawthorns, pieces of sunflowers—
the color, he said of her hair—

columbines, then poppies when he crossed
the Sierras into California, he looking
for the gold that would bring her
to him and we never learning
if he ever possessed a box
to save on his side of the world.

 

Richard Luftig is a past professor of educational psychology and special education at Miami University in Ohio who now resides in California. He is a recipient of the Cincinnati Post-Corbett Foundation Award for Literature and a semi-finalist for the Emily Dickinson Society Award. His poems have appeared in numerous literary journals in the United States and internationally in Japan, Canada, Australia, Europe, Thailand, Hong Kong and India. One of his poems was nominated for the 2012 Pushcart Poetry Prize.

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