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(............31aug) Stamps
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(............31aug) Stamps

My favorite one, from Italy,
showed a woman
with a whole, walled city
atop her head.

Then there were the triangles:
Finnish bicycle racers,
Angolan cheetahs with gleaming eyes,
Croatian birds — how I loved
to whisper that word, 'Croatia'!

The Russians, too, had bike racers,
leaning intensely forward,
and many men
with long, white beards.

I learned strange words
like 'Magyar' and 'Norge',
same as the brand
of refrigerators
Dad sold at his store,

and Espana, the lovely
name of a place whose stamps
were mostly filled up
with the big head
of a man named Franco,
of which I had red, orange,
brown and violet versions,
some cancelled, some brand new.

And Hitler. Grandpa made
me cross his picture out
in all the stamps of him
with Deutsches-Reich at the bottom,
but not the small, square ones
of grey, round-faced
general von Hindenburg.

Stamps were an absolute
democracy, the tiny
republic of San Marino
equal to the great
United States.

And the Cape of Good Hope,
the Cape of Good Hope!
I learned of it from a stamp,
and still hope to round it some day.

Once, a distant cousin
in the diplomatic corps
wrote to us from Tanganyika.
Mother helped me steam
the orange stamp off
after she'd read the note..
I felt I'd been given
a piece of the land itself.

I wrote the President of Pakistan,
asking whether the capital
was Lahore or Rawalpindi,
and I swear, he wrote me back
in his own hand, 'Rawalpindi',

and Kwame Nkruma, father
of the new country, Ghana,
I wrote him too,
feeling indignant
when he never replied.

The world seemed simpler then.
Oh God, I want that world!

User Rating: 5,0 / 5 ( 1 votes ) 8

Comments (8)

Hi Max, I just read this and you are a thinking-man's poet. Your words hold meaning and insight into something everyone using everyday....except for those bound to emails :) I wanted to thank you also for commenting on my poem Jaguar, and yes I was inspired to write that poem from the poem The Panther and by Blake's Tiger.
Max - Can owning a stamp, feel like having tasted and swallowed little bits of the world without standing on their soil? The internet now opens those doors for the travel-averse. Sadly, very few now pen a letter to communicate, and attach an inexpensive 'stamp' to safely fly it into unseen lands. This poem took me back, back, back. Thanks Max
Those last two lines put an entirely different, further perspective on what was already a piece of vibrance and complexity. t x
Sounds like you are not just an excellent writer but a stamp collector as well. Just bought on 8/31 new ones that say celebrate that I won't be doing as I post them on this months bills, but, at least they're colorful. Great write, certainly different than mine of ~~8~~31~~07. marci. :)
i totally agree with Daniel Tyler... that is exactly how i respond to this poem, Max... strange, but i hv just the same words for this one! Asma...
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