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Upon Hearing a Poem Read over the PhoneShannon Borg
Vol. 19 No. 24 · 11 December 1997

Upon Hearing a Poem Read over the Phone

Shannon Borg

393 words

The voice leaves his throat like a spirit
leaving a body. Words deep and English,
pronouncing punctuation: comma, stop, line
break. Words not in the poem, but needed.

I’ve put a pound into the phone’s empty
mouth, falling to its metal heart. My time
ticks away. The poem is about a father, three
thousand miles away who doesn’t know anything

has been written about him. The man reads,
tells me where hyphens have broken
my words, but I imagine only his mouth around
words that seem no longer mine.

The poem is about a father on a table
three thousand miles away whose heart
is stopped. The man says how strange
it is to read over the phone, as if

it were a line, as if he were inside
the poem, saying this. My time ticks
away. The poem is about a moon, a million
miles away: it doesn’t know anything

has been written about it. I am silent,
eyes closed, receiving the voice
as I would the voice of God, telling me
a poem that could never be my own.

A poem about a god, a million years away,
who doesn’t know what has been written
about him. The man reads lines I’ve written,
but I’m hearing only desert roads I drove

away from, dark bars I’ve sat in, his voice’s
velvet punctuation. Comma, stop. My time
ticks away, but still he reads slowly, calm
as the surgeon stitching veins into the father’s heart,

calm and still as empty roads I drive,
in the desert, in the poem. He is reading me
my life, as my time ticks away. The poem
is about a grown daughter who didn’t know

there was a poem inside her, nor she inside
the poem. He reads the last line: the roads are full,
empty, full. Full stop. I know I will never see
this man, but his voice will continue to be

inside the poem. This poem. About a man reading
poems over the phone; he’ll never know
there’s been a poem written about him.
I hear myself thanking him, replacing

the receiver, hear the coin fall with other
coins inside the phone. My time has all
but ticked away. I can hear black ravens –
calling from black wires, flying to their nests.

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