Friday, November 27, 2020

They Will Remember the Carrots


Sixty years out, I think, they will remember the carrots:
how delicious they were,
fresh and crisp, newly dug and scrubbed,
pleasing in their shades of 
a muted purple, an orange and a nice turnip white.

Sixty years out, I suppose they might remember the color of their
how while they sat in their family van
they watched their mom
beg through her missing teeth, her dark eyes sad.
She had begged to five cars in a row and not even one occupant had handed her a single
dollar bill.

And then the carrots came
The sons ate them while
they waited for
the return of the woman
who gifted the carrots.
She, who drove an older-model Subaru,
not looking too prosperous.

She had said (and they hoped it was true) she would
go to her bank and return with the remainder of
the cash they needed
to get home
to Mt. Vernon
on the far side of the state.

They had slept cold in the car the night before
in a parking lot,
whose lights were like
spotlights in a prison yard
prying open their eyes
at each turning of their stiff discomfort.
The carrots in their carrot burrows,
early fall, frost-free,
had slept better than them.

With a faint and desperate smile, the mom said to me,
"The water pump it gave out yesterday.
Took all my money to fix it.
I have three kids there in the blue van.
So far, I have gotten fifty dollars,
but I need
seventy to get home."
Nodding slightly towards her kids she hurriedly added,
"And I'll need to  get a little extra to feed my kids."
She smiled when she remembered her kids.

"Do you have a twenty?" she asked.

The single mom (she told me she was a single mom) with
her smile circumnavigating her missing teeth
asked only for a twenty.
She could have asked for
a fair wage,
guaranteed income,
health insurance,
clear air, water, food, or
affordable housing,
but she only asked for a twenty (and a little more if it wasn't an inconvenience).

Rifling through my wallet, I didn't have a twenty.
But if she waited, my bank wasn't far.
"Oh," I said, "while you wait, I have some organic carrots!
Take some!"
She looked surprised
and said No at first (maybe remembering her missing teeth.)
But then, you know,
the carrots were so beautiful,
and her sons hadn't eaten much, so
she reconsidered with an amused
grin, "Well, I'll take just a few."

I couldn't give her what she really needed.
It might be sixty years out or maybe more,
maybe centuries,
no mothers beg
in parking lots
while their dear chidren watch anxiously.

Her sons, all teenagers (12, 14, and 15),
will look back as old men and
maybe they will remember the extra twenty for food
or the gift card for Subway
(enough still on it for three
twelve-inch-long sandwiches—
each one longer than any of the carrots).

But I hope they will remember
With some amusement
their fortune turned on the arrival of
three carrots:
one a muted purple,
one an orange,
And one a nice shade of turnip white.


Sunday, November 1, 2020

Rural Postal Disruption


The flood was an enough of a problem for the mail carriers. The rain swollen and swift river carried rocks and boulders as though they were rubber duckies afloat in a pond. The river left its banks carrying its load of rounded basalt rocks,poured waist high through woods, and carved a new bed from the old roadway, making it impassable for mailmen. Uprooted trees fell, and one of them bashed a lone-standing mailbox with a glancing blow. By the time the waterline and roadcrews had replaced the broken watershed piping and repaired the road, this mailbox was left stranded across a gully with its door left ajar waiting for mail. Its flag missing. It swoopy new shape making it look like a sculpture in a a garden of a modern art museum.

But even before the newly appointed United States Postmaster began having mail-sorting machines dismantled in August and cut postman's hours to disrupt our upcoming election results, (I can't believe I just wrote that sentence.) another disruption was under way with that lone mailbox standing over the gully. The hazard arrived quietly and at first was small. It's silver gray tones blended well with the metal of the mailbox. It grew larger, filling most of the box.

Paper wasps construct nests by scraping and chewing wood fiber into a pulp and then layering it to make internal hexagonal cubicles enclosed in an exterior that looks similar to the flakey crust of a croissant. The nests are beautifully engineered.

These particular type of wasps are wonderful to have near gardens, where they catch small pesky insects that cause damage to plants. The wasps are not aggressive unless they are having to defend the queen in the nest, like those queens whose nests are located in mailboxes. All summer the wasps created one last hazard for any mailman intent on doing his duty to that lone mailbox.

But fall is here. We have had our first freeze. All of the paper wasps have died now. Except the queen. She will winter over in a snug place. The nest remains, intact and nonthreatening. Quite beautiful, really.

And the threat to the postal service of our democratic nation? 

The aggressive dismantling of what we have assumed was non-political. Well, go vote. It is too late to mail your ballot in many places (due often to more poltical shennigans), so GO VOTE—in person or drop your ballot in a drop box. VOTE.