Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsFall 2019  Vol. 18 No. 2
an online journal of literature and the arts
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The Letter

Between a stack of gray Observers, my grandmother’s spidery cursive.
How easy it would have been to miss the envelope, to toss it away
with the rest of his collected periodicals, menus, postcards from the churches
he’d visited. Perhaps he thought it a good place to keep it safe, pressed beneath
the weight of old news. Perhaps he had simply lost track of it. I imagined him
sat in his bunk, nineteen years old, stationed off the coast of Egypt, the war still young
as he ran his finger along the edge of the envelope. It was six months before
the letter reached his ship. How glad he must have been to receive it, wanting only
in that moment to hear of his mother’s daily routines. How the weather was
turning warm, his father out back planting the leeks again. It took a page
of local gossip before she could speak it: his sister’s passing, and only twelve years
old. Came home with a headache and later that day was gone. All the night raids
over London, the doctors supposed. An embolism. I thought of him
deep inside the hull, turning away from the other men, the ink starting to blur
in his hand. I looked at my grandmother’s blotted words. My father’s tears
decades dry now, his own life done. These lines worn deep into the grain
of the paper. His thumbprints faint at the edges.  

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