Love Letters from Prison

I worked for the post office and
we got stacks of envelopes
from the prison, letters from inmates
to their lovers with lots of artwork
in every address, every letter of the
lover’s name exploding with whispery
feathers blowing up each pencil line
and insecure cherubs announcing the
lover’s name, a cry to please open me.

Is there a word less accurate than “inmate”?
The “in” suggests inclusion; “mate,” well,
you know. The envelopes were art
and I could barely imagine what beautiful
messages had to be contained inside
based on how much time and work
the inmate had spent
just on that address.
What must these lonely
women have thought just before
they opened their mail?

Here were lovers
loving from behind walls,
forgotten by everyone,
and yet these same exiles writing
with the most desperate,
passionate lover’s urgency,
each word supremely selected
after what,
a month of deliberation?

About the Author

Casey Killingsworth has been published in The American Journal of Poetry, Common Ground, COG, Two Thirds North, and other journals. He has a book of poems, A Handbook for Water, (Cranberry Press, 1995) and a book on the poetry of Langston Hughes, The Black and Blue Collar Blues (VDM, 2008). He graduated from Reed College.