James Tate’s many books include “The Ghost Soldiers,” “Worshipful Company of Fletchers,” which won the National Book Award, and “Selected Poems,” which won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry.
Dear Mr. President,
I saw someone coming in the distance, but couldn't make
out who it was. The closer they got the more blurred the face
became. Until finally I saw it was just a whirlwind of leaves.
It was only me on a football field walking toward the street
with my handbag thrown over my shoulder with this big funnel
of leaves coming toward me like a man. Then it passed me and
went up the street. And then it disappeared. I walked on,
toward the bank where I had some business to do. A man appeared
out of an alley and stopped me and said, "Did you see that man
made out of leaves go by?" "I did, could have fooled me," I said.
"Hey, do you suppose you could lend me a dollar for a cup of
coffee?" "No, I can't. I'm on my way to the bank," I said.
I left him there and went on my way. Pretty soon a little
boy crossed my path. He stopped me in my path and said, "I
know who you are. You're the Man-of-Leaves. You just took
your coat off. You can't fool me." "You're a pretty smart
fellow, but you're wrong this time," I said, and went on my way.
When I got to the bank I went in and waited to see an officer.
When I saw one was free I went in. In the chair behind the desk
sat a pile of leaves. It said, "Can I help you?" I stumbled
at first, but managed to say, "I'm looking for a small loan,
a thousand dollars for, say, twelve months." "Of course. Would
you like a 4 1/2% or a 5 1/2% loan?" it said. "I'd like the 4 1/2% if
you don't mind," I said. "Very good choice," it said. It
made out the paper and handed them to me. "Have a nice day,"
it said. "It's windy out there," I said. "You're telling me,"
it said, smoothing himself with satisfaction.
Have a great four years.