Real Ink
by Carol Hamilton

"Come! Come, Mr. Tum!"
we chanted, perched
like purple martins on telephone wires.
The waist-high curb
that held Hermine's grass
up above the cracked and tilted slabs
of sidewalk was shaded by huge elms
in those pre-disease days.
Mr. Tum was our mailman,
who walked his route twice a day,
brought us signed movie star photos.
We wrote off for them,
though I remember no stamp-buying,
no search for addresses.
Our silver-screened idols
(it was mostly a silver screen then)
almost always came through.

We labored over our grainy
pages of manila paper scrapbooks,
and we tongue-tipped our index fingers
to smear test for real signatures.
Jimmy Durante sent a looping scrawl
of blue ink ...."Dear Carol"...
across his large glossy photo.
My little brother smeared it up good
showing off to one of his pint-sized gang.
Most of our stars sent copies
of copies of copies of a one-time
signature of the name they came by
or were glamorously given.

All our time was together, outdoors:
testing ...testing each other,
testing the world, testing to discover
the real, then cherish it. Sad truth...
we found the real to be
the more perishable, destructible.

We never thought of that then
as we called for more, more, more
from Mr. Tum. In time, though,
that is exactly what we learned.

Illya's Honey Literary Journal

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