Why this?

The occasional poem of my own and a generous helping of work by others that I find inspiring. Site is named for a beloved book by one of my favorite writers, Italo Calvino, whose fanciful work lights--and delights--my soul.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Beige Wall Telephone, 1960s

To you who have never known what it is to be tethered 
    to the family's one phone by a corkscrew cord 
         filthied by idle fingers twisting it as we talked 
and stretched by our efforts to sneak with the handset

away from the dining room where that cheap plastic box 
    clung to the wall, my sister and I desperate 
         to hide behind curtains or in a nearby room 
and mumble dumb endearments to whichever lucky soul

we had a crush on that week: I won't say how wonderful 
    it felt to hear a call's unexpected tremolo 
         and rush to answer that sudden summons, 
lifting the receiver's heavy curve out of its metal hook,

or to dial seven numbers on a whirring analog wheel 
    and hear a distant ringing pulse in the ear, 
         knowing that actual bells trilled as a body 
moved through space to deliver its hopeful Hello?—

no, it was awful, that phone, intended for businesses, 
    brisk standing exchanges of information, 
         not a home where its too-public anchoring 
left adolescent siblings open to each other's mockery

and the cocked ears of nosy parents straining to decode 
    one side of conversations as we curled closer 
         to the wall and whispered words downward 
into the darkness that our huddling made, not pacing

like a barking dog chained to a stake in the backyard 
    but trying our best to vanish, descending 
         slow as a diver sipping words like oxygen 
from a humming line whose other end kept us breathing.

--Michael McPhee

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