Land Line

A poem by William Doreski


All day you tie up the phone,
the land line that anchors us
to the English-speaking world.

Meanwhile the latest hurricane
twirls and spits and fizzles
in the shallows off Nantucket.

We could have used its rain
to cheer the ghost of our garden,
could have basked in downpours

the summer has wholly withheld.
The wind would have toppled us,
but also leaved us with the ghosts

of colonialism, dredged from
the mud of the Caribbean,
where treasure ships lie sulking

in a litter of wormy timbers.
You tie up the phone because
your imaginary lovers deploy

actual voices in the ether
that sometimes come to earth
to roost and crow in colors

perceptible to innocent eyes.
I don’t mind the lovers but object
to the wear and tear on the thread

of wire that leashes us to worlds
larger than this one. In these hills,
cell phones often fail to connect,

and non-European languages
sometimes intrude with phonemes
thick peasant tongues can’t replicate.

At least the land line’s secure
from that overlap of history
shy people like me avoid.

But you’re on the phone all day,
talking so briskly a stranger
would mistake this for a two-way

conversation, unaware
that no one ever answers your calls.
Instead, old-fashioned slow-dial phones

ring in demolished houses
where only the wind and rain
of failed hurricanes might answer.


William Doreski’s work has appeared in various online and print journals and in several collections, most recently The Suburbs of Atlantis. (AA Press, 2013.)

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