Poem of the Week, by John Okrent
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Yesterday I went to my neighborhood post office for the first time since it was rebuilt. It’s been a long three years and I was so happy to see Fred back at his station. Fred is the greatest postal clerk in the history of the world: so funny, so endearing, so full of smiles and quips and zippy repartee.
I was afraid he’d retired but nope, there he was, making everyone’s day better, in the same way that Elizabeth, my favorite grocery story cashier, makes my life better. “How are YOU?” she will say when I haven’t been shopping in a while. “I see you’re baking again today, aren’t you?”
Fred, Elizabeth, the elderly man who walks his elderly dog past my house every day: these people and so many others at the edges of my daily life, weaving in color and caring and kindness. It is beautiful to be glad to see a person every time you see them.
May 5, 2020, by John Okrent
It is beautiful to be glad to see a person
every time you see them, as I was to see Juan,
the maintenance man, with whom it was always the same
brotherly greeting—each of us thumping a fist
over his heart and grinning, as though we shared a joke,
or bread. I barely knew him. Evenings in clinic,
me finishing my work, him beginning his—
fluorescence softening in the early dark. He wasn’t even fifty,
had four grandchildren, fixed what was broken, cleaned
for us, caught the virus, and died on his couch
last weekend. And what right have I to write this poem,
who will not see him in his uniform of ashes,
only remember him, in his Seahawks cap, and far from sick,
locking up after me, turning up his music.
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