In the absence of mail

Who uses those thin
aérogrammes anymore, onion-

skin paper edged with bars
of red and blue? I dream,

fitfully, of that alley bent
like an elbow at the bottom;

the cats that roamed, roaches
flying like miniature bats

through rooms swathed with
mosquito netting. In each one,

all the people left behind:
their whispers, the drone

of prayers repeated bead
by bead. Don’t write

about dreams, I’ve been told.
But what if they’re the only

kinds of letters I can send
and receive these days? The wind

opens its mouth. Its breath,
unsweetened, kills any nostalgia.

Time clicks itself into place,
one scalloped shell at a time.

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