698: Morning Freight

698: Morning Freight

698: Morning Freight


I’m Ada Limón and this is The Slowdown.

I miss letters. Real letters you could open and unfold. An email isn’t the same, is it? An email requires an urgent response, it contains a deadline, a to-do list, it asks for a quick and short response. But a letter exists in a different world, the world of intention, of patience, of long loops of cursive, or even the short clipped font of the typewriter. The way even the handwritten name on the envelope, on the outside of the letter, feels intimate.

For a world that demands immediacy and convenience, the slowness of letters feels like a rebellion. I learned to write by writing letters in my early teens. I loved writing notes to family members and receiving a note back. I loved how writing a letter gave you the opportunity to reflect on how your day was, on what was important in the world around you. For me, writing letters became a way of figuring out who I was on the page.

Then, of course, there’s the unanswered letter, the one that sits on the desk or gets lost in the shuffle or worst of all never shows up at all. Those were always my least favorite films or stories, the one where everyone’s life is ruined by someone not receiving one single letter. I’ve been that person that decided not to answer a letter. I’ve also been the person waiting for a response that will never come. Maybe that’s why I write poems. They are, in some ways, letters to the world, slipped under the door, not demanding a response, just asking to be opened.

Today’s ethereal poem ponders an unanswered letter, and the way in which we move through the world with our own expectations of response and connection.

Morning Freight
by Sophia Terazawa

True, that buck knife spun a little
farther from its track

surrendering to powerful devices
made available by season. Thus

you spoke of dancing. And the Baltic
Sea you placed in tiny glasses

what you knew of Kosovo
and how our students marched

unarmed, a hyperbolic truth
our maps could make from desert

time or even how
this tongue misplaced aboard

a train could cry despite
its repetition. Or that switch with-

stood our better siege. And holding
to this parcel, what you tore

in 60,000 pieces from your father
winking on then off—so write to me

he begged—would make of him
a mourning. True, that carving

light and scattering of voices
glinted off the blade

and forged a current with its weight.
In spite of that, you wrote to me

then gasped along a skyline
going out and out and out

until even this engine disappeared.
I ran after and saw

your face among the ashen
faces once again

so write to me
I said. Or write to him of cobble-

stone or paint along the walls
that streak of light and cities

red and red and
cattle staring out their slats

and grates of silver
and those Alps

a little farther from the track
before your father

sent out one more letter
every summer.

Would you answer then? Or
would I need to wait?

"Morning Freight" by Sophia Terazawa. Originally published in Sepia. Used by permission of the poet.