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Express Mail by Edward D. Miller

My mother used to say
some days no matter what you do the past arrives.
I imagined a package
filled with curling snapshots
sent express mail
by my Aunt from down south–
as if the past was stored below the Mason-Dixon line.

Even up north
memory sometimes delivers a return to sender story.
Without warning
lost and found images are superimposed atop
any and all perceptions of the moment.

When I was ten years old
I would have made those gin and tonics
for my mommy myself if she let me
(to make them weaker).
I can still hear the clink
of the ice cubes against the tumbler.
Two of them calmed her
but a third cocktail could unleash such frosty rage
that our southern-exposure home
began to shiver in the summer.
If only I could relive the joy
in overhearing her gossip with galpals
but my ability to repress ain’t what it used to be.
The walls of that Jericho fell
one of the days that the past arrived.

Picture this:
the first time my mother
and I saw the Williams sisters
play tennis against each other–
a semi-final at Wimbledon in the year 2000.
I wanted younger sister Serena to kick ass.
Yet my mother articulated Venus’s dilemma to me–
she desires to win but she needs to protect her baby sister.
My mother was almost bed-ridden by then but
didn’t want anyone outside the family to know.
She had a sister who was diagnosed with schizophrenia
and lived and died in Northern State Hospital but my mother
didn’t want anyone outside the family to know.
I watched my mother watch the match–
at times she was trying not to cry–
her cheeks yielded to a tear or two after one long rally–
and I realized
it was one of those days that the past arrives. 

Edward D. Miller's poetry appears in Counterexample Poetics, Hinchas de Poesia, Wilderness House Literary Journal, The Boston Literary Magazine, Crack the Spine, Red Fez. and The Bangalore Review. He teaches media, film, and performance at the City University of New York.