A Journal of Poetry and Kindred Prose

Bill Roberts

is a retired nuclear weapons expert who hopes someday all WMD will be negotiated into the scrap heap.

His poems have appeared in over a hundred small-press journals and online, including Bellowing Ark, Chantarelle’s Notebook, Long Story Short, Main Street Rag, and Rattle.

If he could start over again, he’d pursue a career in either ballet or opera—non-dancing and non-singing roles, of course.

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The midnight shift covers my tuition at A.U.
Through most of the black morning hours
I stand sticking mail in slots that organize
The city into finite grids for later, finer

Resortings by other working stiffs like me.
My first class, Advanced Organic Chemistry,
Starts at eight, and I’m usually late, driving
Across the city from the Main Post Office

Next to D.C.’s sleepy Union Train Station.
Should I quit school a year and save money?
Surely I wouldn’t be so tired all the time.
I look across at the new man on my right,

Slow to figure out the P.O. sorting system.
He’s short, wiry, black, muscular, mystified.
I offer a few whispered suggestions.
He listens and seems even more puzzled.

Then I recognize him: Gene Washington.
I saw him kayo a series of lightweights
Last year at noisy, smoke-filled Turner’s Arena.
Then he dropped his guard, lost a few fights.

Now here he is next to me, sticking mail
On the graveyard shift, all of us a bit punchy.
He tells me “Stick it out, man. Stay in school,
Keep sticking the goddamned mail.”