The Letter Scale

By Jacques Réda b. 1929 Jacques Reda

Translated By Andrew Shields

One of the objects I've treasured most in my life
Is this letter scale which, long ago, you gave me.
I was an active correspondent at the time,
Even sending lots of letters overseas.
While still enjoying the pleasure of going to the post,
I now had another: assessing exactly, in advance,
At my counter, the cost of packets and envelopes,
To which, price list in hand, I stuck my stamps.
I use it less these days, this quite simple device
Graded with little marks up to a whole pound,
For my mailings rarely still exceed the price
Of an ordinary stamp. The tray of polished metal's now
Covered with dust, without the slightest hint
That the red pointer marking the weight on the front
Has budged. But in the long run, one would, I think,
Discern a difference and see how much the months
Were worth in terms of dust, the seasons elapsed
Since the previous weighing. But having been seized,
Suddenly, just this morning, by a tremendous attack
(Annual) of cleaning, from which nothing is released,
I restored to the tray's slightly concave stainless steel,
That ever so slightly distorted mirror, its polished shine.
It reflected all of the sky, through which clouds reeled,
And I could confirm that space does not weigh more than time.

Source: Poetry (January 2000).


This poem originally appeared in the January 2000 issue of Poetry magazine

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January 2000
 Jacques  Réda


Jacques Réda is an eminent literary figure in Europe and especially in his home country of France. The author of both poetry and prose, he focuses much of his writing on the banality of life. He also has written extensively in both forms about jazz. Réda is widely known for his observations of the life around him as he travels throughout urban and suburban environments, especially those of Paris. One of his most highly . . .

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Poems by Jacques Réda

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Friends & Enemies, Living, Growing Old, Time & Brevity, Relationships


Poetic Terms Epistle, Metaphor

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