Michael Carey was born in Queens, NY. But wonder of wonders, he decided to be a poet, so he came to Iowa to attend the world-renown University of Iowa Writers' Workshop. Mr. Carey married an Iowa farm girl and has since lived in southwest Iowa, as a farmer poet.
I attended his book reading at our local book store several years back, and he opened with this poem. My breath caught in the back of my throat as he read the last few lines...
The Letter From New York
When Iowa wasn't Iowa
but Missouri, a young man
got word he'd gotten a letter.
So that day he planted watermelon.
Daily, when his chores were done
he weeded his garden. Then
one September morning, he picked
a wagonload and headed south.
No one here had anything
but coonskin caps and wolf scalps.
But that wouldn't do for the government.
No one in Savannah had money either
and by now there were two letters:
twenty-five cents apiece. Couldn't
stamp a letter with a watermelon.
So, he waited by the back door
and when the postman went home
he sold him his whole season.
One hundred and fifty years ago
on this very spot, Amos Johnson
opened those letters. She said,
yes, she would. She said, "Yes," and
all his meager harvest was worth it.
-Michael Carey, Nishnabotna, 1995