ing home by one of my regular routes, I pass a large cemetery. One day, I noticed for the first time that there is a mailbox at the entrance to the cemetery (Right and Below). Instantly, I began to wonder: what kind of mail goes to the cemetery mailbox? From there, a poem began to form around what kind of letters people would send to a cemetery and specifically what I would write if I sent a letter to such a mailbox.
What month and year did you start writing this poem? I began the poem in June 2014.
How many drafts of this poem did you write before going to the final? (And can you share a photograph of your rough drafts with pen markings on it? I wrote three or four drafts of this poem, plus some minor editing with my publisher as we prepared the chapbook. The length of the poem and the lines remained fairly constant, but I cut the beginning and added to the end. Initially, the poem ended with the line “before we woke” but I felt it needed something else, and I saw an opportunity to bring the poem back around to the cemetery from the memory of childhood.
It’s common where I live for people to set up fruit and vegetable stands during the summer, and there was one across from the cemetery where we used to occasionally stop and visit with the seller. It occurred to me that he was kind of a guardian of that intersection, and I wrote those lines, and then, after showing the poem to a writers group I’m in, revised them from “guardian angel” to just “guardian.” (Below: Peach Roadside stand in Georgia)
What do you want readers of this poem to take from this poem? I’d hope that readers would think about their own departed “dearest ones” and what kind of letter they might write to them, as well as find some comfort in the poem from the images of the memories of childhood and the generosity of the fruit and vegetable seller. I like the idea of keeping the dead in our hearts and of continuing to converse with them as we go through our own lives.
Which part of the poem was the most emotional of you to write and why? I do use the word “weepy” in the third stanza, and so that’s an emotional image in the poem, but I think I felt more in writing the lines having to do with bike riding and jogging at the cemetery: the combination of smiling and sadness that, for me, so often accompanies remembering someone who’s died.
The cemetery in the poem is not actually where my family is buried, but the poem elides that distinction for the sake of coherence and consistency.
Has this poem been published before? And if so where? Its first appearance is in this book Borrowed Light
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