Ellen Steinbaum: Letter Home



Read more of Ellen Steinbaum's poems in Container Gardening (click here for information and purchase).

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Ellen Steinbaum is a poet and journalist. She is also the author of the collection, Afterwords, and of a one-person play, CenterPiece.  She writes a literary column for The Boston Globe.

Steinbaum's description of herself:

I believe in the power of words. When we tell little children, "use your words," we are helping them take hold of their most powerful posession. Words can be abused, but they can also be used to make the world better--more coherent, more connected, more beautiful, more true.

And because the written word remains, it has even more power. Whether I am writing as a journalist, a poet, a playwright, or a blogger, finding the right words feels like one of the most important things I can do. Most of my work grows out of my own experiences but, since I believe that, as one of my poems says, "we all lead the same lives," I hope readers find it is about their lives, too.

Source: www.EllenSteinbaum.com


Letter Home

I love you forever
my father's letter tells her
for forty-nine pages,
from the troopship crossing the Atlantic
before they'd ever heard of Anzio.

He misses her, the letter says,
counting out days of boredom, seasickness,
and changing weather,
poker games played for matches
when cash and cigarettes ran out,
a Red Cross package—soap,
cards, a mystery book he traded away
for The Rubaiyyat a bunkmate didn't want.
He stood night watch and thought
of her. Don't forget the payment
for insurance, he says.

My mother waits at home with me,
waits for the letter he writes day by day
moving farther across the ravenous ocean.
She will get it in three months and
her fingers will smooth the Army stationery
to suede.

He will come home, stand
beside her in the photograph, leaning
on crutches, holding
me against the rough wool
of his jacket. He will sit
alone and listen to Aïda

and they will pick up their
interrupted lives. Years later,
she will show her grandchildren
a yellow envelope with
forty-nine wilted pages telling her

of shimmering sequins on the water,
the moonlight catching sudden phosphorescence,
the churned wake that stretched a silver trail.

"Letter Home" by Ellen Steinbaum, from Container Gardening. © Custom Words, 2008.