The Mail Carrier

The poet Jennifer Clark, whose collections are a gift to us all, told me this story: Her father was being given a memory test. When asked, “Who is the president of the United States?” he answered, “There is no president of the United States.”

On October 1, Jimmy Carter turned 95. He spent the day working on a home for Habitat for Humanity.

“Decent people don’t get enough credit.”– Steve Blass in his farewell speech after 60 years with the Pittsburgh Pirates as player and broadcaster.

The Mail Carrier

When the weather is good,
she imagines each letter
sits forever in a lonely
mind. Postcards, a small
hello, sometimes a question
about the job help her
believe the uniform,
the truck, even the sack
keep her safe from
her own days. She often
daydreams she’s an angel
carrying the mystery
of words that only connect.
She thinks about her route,
how she’s driven it
for 27 years: five miles
north, two more east,
four south, six west,
tires over the same roads,
her hand reaching across
the empty passenger seat,
settling it all into every
mailbox, a quiet pause
in front of each house.
She knows by now what lies
in nearly any envelope,
knows when she gives up
this work, she’ll dream
the route, carry opened,
unread letters throughout the day.

–Jack Ridl

First published in The Pebble Lake Review.

Subsequently published in Broken Symmetry (Wayne State University Press)

For this you need tickets, friends… Sal and I will talk Poetry and the Spirit ON OCTOBER 24, 7-9PM, Douglas United Church of Christ, 56 Wall Street, Douglas. Here are the details and how to get your very own tickets before they are gone.

This week we were visited by former student and writer Mira Bartok and artist Alex Chitty. Mira’s memoir ,The Memory Palace received the New York Book Critics Circle Award, and her latest book, The Wonderling, will be made into a major motion picture. Check out Alex’s arresting sculptures here. It’s a big deal when your students bring their students and you begin to see a new map of the world.


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Visit Reader’s World or Hope-Geneva Bookstore in Holland, The Bookman in Grand Haven, the Michigan News Agency in Kalamazoo, and The Book Nook & Java Shop in Montague to find Jack’s books in West Michigan.

Jack’s page on Amazon.

Click here to subscribe to receive Jack’s poems and news in your inbox.

Click here for Jack’s entire collection, In Time — poems for the current administration.

Click here to watch Jack’s TedX talk.

Jack at Fetzer Institute on Kindness.

Jack at Fetzer Institute on Everyday Forgiveness.

Jack at Fetzer Institute on Empathy.

Jack Ridl at Fetzer Institute on Suffering and Love.

Beyond Meaning with Jack Ridl, C3: West Michigan’s Spiritual Connection

7 thoughts on “The Mail Carrier

  1. Dear Jack,
    reminds me of “haikus” connected. A poem that takes care, sets a frame of dignity for what we call everyday life and makes the letter carrier almost a mythical analogon of us all. A Poet Laureate’s achievement, if you ask me.
    Thank you
    P.S. Am I not admirably fast today? At 66?!? Right across the pond in practically no time!

    • Oh my, Richard, your insight about this poem brings me lasting joy
      and gratitude. This is exactly what I hoped that I had managed to
      bring about, Thank you so much. One always wonders and hopes.
      To know that it succeeded certainly is a joy!

  2. Love this Jack. Well I love them all but my grandfather was a rural mail carrier in Ohio for thirty years. Started his route with a horse and buggy. He was born before automobiles and lived to see humans on the moon. What a great life.


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