From ‘Going Postal’, by Joseph Minden

7 January 2014

The yorks have front wheels rivet-straight
so steer from behind, lean into the weight
like when you hang out from a boat against
the wind. Collect from where they sort the drifts
of mail off the troughs: swivel out
the full sleeve, and Eric’ll tell you about
bar codes (to scan quantity: don’t overfill).
After that, there’s primary, roads 1
2, 3 and 4, and sky road, which is mainly Scotland.
The trolleys form arcades; the function of
the space depends on how they’re ranged.
I’ve grown fond of how their cages catch
the light and line it up, low and level –
across the tops of all of them you see
the shuttered drum of the machine: it sifts
the inbound stuff and flicks it round the loop,
it leaps like fish. The way these trolleys pivot
makes me think of doors in floorplans,
geometry of entry, so the lino here’s
a blank of unrecorded draughstmanship.
If you’ve ever seen those clocks which seem to write
the time across the air, with a ticker like
a metronome but strobing out 04:10
with LEDs – I’d say it’s quite like that,
a blur but somehow sense is made.
With us all running parallel, surface tension
makes the link and mail gets through,
just how a drop holds slide and cover slip
together, both the focus and the glue.
Ask Pat: she comes back every year for Christmas.


‘Going Postal’ is a long-ish series of observations on casual work in a postal sorting office, and won this year’s John Kinsella / Tracy Ryan Poetry Prize. This is the opening.

[Read in The Churchill Review 2013.]


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