Spring 1997 • Vol. XIX No. 2 PoetryApril 1, 1997 |

The Floating Post Office

(Note: The post boat was like a gondola that called at each houseboat. It carried clerk, weighing scales, and a bell to announce arrivals.) Has he been kept from us? Portents of rain, rumors, ambushed letters … Curtained palanquin, fetch our word, bring us word: Who has died? Who'll live? Has the order gone out to close the waterways … the one open road? And then we saw the boat being rowed through the fog of death, the sentence passed on our city. It came close to reveal smudged black-ink letters which the postman—he was alive—gave us, like signs, without a word, and we took them, without a word. From our deck we'd seen the hill road bringing a jade rain, near-olive, down from the temple, some penitent's cymbaled prayer? He took our letters, and held them, like a lover, close to his heart. And the rain drew close. Was there, we asked, a new password— blood, blood shaken into letters, cruel primitive script that would erode our saffron link to t

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Agha Shahid Ali (1949-2001) was a poet and teacher. He authored a variety of collections including A Walk Through the Yellow Pages (1987), The Half-Inch Himalayas (1987), A Nostalgist’s Map of America (1991), The Country Without a Post Office (1997). His collection, Rooms Are Never Finished (2001) was a finalist for the National Book Award in 2001. He taught at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, Princeton College, and in the MFA program at Warren Wilson College.

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