Receiver of Taxes

A dreaded visit is met with warm hospitality.


By Terry Rainey, a poet of Clinton, NY. Photo by Zach Lewis, also of Clinton.

Lombard Hall, Clinton, NY


Posted signs direct me to the back of Clinton Town Hall.

Handwritten arrows keep me pointed in the right direction,

Urging me on, building some excitement, I have to admit,

As I hustle down the hallway. After two turns, I arrive at the office,

Receiver of Taxes, a place of tidiness and pride.


I expect to be waiting with sheepish, shuffling procrastinators,

But the high-ceilinged room is light, airy and calm, with no line.

Two pleasant women, let’s call them Amy and Patricia, greet me.

They’re deliberate and unharried and gentle. You’d be glad to know them,

If you ever had to pay your taxes in person.


It’s just the three of us. No waiting room. No logjam of late payers.

Just Amy and Patricia, and me, the last-minute man with

Trifling thoughts about the singular satisfaction of paying his bill so resolutely,

Serendipitously, intimately. We bond, as if we’d

Planned this rendezvous for months, needy of its affirmation.


On the counter where I place my check

Sits a bowlful of silver-wrapped Hershey’s Kisses. Their familiar shapes,

White paper flags pointing upward beseechingly, entice me.

Patricia perceives the chocolate look in my eyes.

She smiles and says, please, have a candy.


I carefully select two kisses as Amy smoothly

Whisks out a black-ink stamp and confirms my receipt.

I feel so darned honorable, as if I’d placed myself at the mercy of the court,

And been found extremely innocent of all charges.

I proffer my hand, expecting a stamp there too.


“PAID” it would proclaim on my palm, a hearty confirmation

Of sweet, simple authority, its somber grace and witness.

I savor a Kiss while I offer best wishes to Amy and Patricia

For the coming year, till our next engagement a year hence,

And they promise to be here, welcoming my return.

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