An Argument for Ocean Penny Postage
by Taylor Graham

______somewhere in England, 1840s

An old lady waits patiently in line for her mail.
The attendant offers a letter. She must pay the final postage.
The letter comes from Australia, from her son who sailed
so far across seas to find a living. If she wishes to buy bread,

she can’t afford the letter’s fare. She hands it back
and turns away. The man behind her offers a coin. No need,
she says. This letter proves a son is still alive. Has he
a wife yet, and a child? How does he fare, so far from home?

This letter is no metaphor. It can’t slip reality aside.
No, it’s a matter of international treaties
of transit. Until the fee of passage for a flimsy
sheet of paper in its envelope is something a poor widow

can pay, she’ll be happy in the news of an envelope
addressed to her in a familiar hand,
across continents and seas. The letter inside
the envelope she can’t afford.

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