Many years ago my friend went for an interview at the Royal Mail; when asked why he wanted to be a postman, he said, “Because my uncle runs the pub across the road.” He didn’t get the job, which wasn’t fair really because the pub was always full of posties at lunchtime.
Charles Bukowski was probably the most famous literary drinking postman. When deciding whether to continue at the post or become a full-time writer he said, “I have one of two choices – stay in the post office and go crazy … or stay out here and play at writer and starve. I have decided to starve.”
Imagine however, that instead of delivering other peoples’ letters or junk mail, the postman delivered a message of his or her own. What would the folks of downtown L.A. have thought about missives from Bukowski or Burroughs? Or how about messages from those promoting social justice and equality, like Gandhi or Jerry Springer.
Jill Abram, in her poem, Another Life, does just that when she imagines Martin Luther King walking the streets with his dream, ‘but instead of sharing it/with all the world at once,/he would have told people individually/household by household.’ Can you imagine getting a personal message from MLK, how life changing that could be? And how you could pass on his word, “neighbour to neighbour/over garden gates and hedges/and cups of tea.”
Now think of all those postmen and women in their local pub after work, drinking away, discussing what words of wisdom and love they can deliver to the world the following day, with the ghost of Martin Luther King and Charles Bukowski on their shoulders. Make sure you check your post carefully tomorrow, you never know what you might find.
Jill Abram is Director of Malika’s Poetry Kitchen – a collective of writers who focus on craft, community and development – and a member of Tideway Poets. She is a prize-winning poet who writes as well for the page and mind as she does for the ear and audience. She has been described as “poignant and funny” and having “mischief and poise”, her poems have been described as “satirical and quirky” and she has great appeal to those who think they don’t like poetry, as well as those who know they do.
If Martin Luther King had been a postman
he would still have had a dream
but, instead of sharing it
with all the world at once,
he would have told people individually,
household by household,
as he walked his walk
delivering letters and ideas,
and they would have spread his words
neighbour to neighbour,
over garden gates and hedges
and cups of tea,
and he would still
have made a difference.