Thursday, January 24, 2013

"Walt Whitman's Answering Service" by Philip Dacey

I'm still enjoying this remarkably versatile poet (see previous post), author of The Mystery of Max Schmitt: Poems on the Life and Work of Thomas Eakins (Turning Point Books, 2004). His homepage is
Innisfree Journal poems and comments about the poet.

Walt Whitman's Answering Service
Poet Philip Dacey

Who calls here,
hankering, gross, mystical, nude?

Did you expect to find me at home?
Then you do not know me.
I am never at home.
I am always on the road.
All roads lead to the telephone;
wherever you go, on or off
the road, a telephone wire
sings beside you.

I knew you would call.
Everyone does,
in his or her own way.
All the wrong numbers you dial
are meant for me,
are the attempts of your better self
to make the call
you are afraid to make.

If you would have me know who you are,
leave no name or number,
simply give to this line
the mist of your breath
and I will recognize you.

I will call you back
unless you wait by the phone
for me to call you back.
Be confident, but be warned:
my voice could be disguised
as anything, anything.

If you love me,
if you truly wish to get through to me,
you will hang up
at the sound of the tone
and dial your own number.
If the line is busy
or no one answers,
consider yourself lucky,
you can always call again.
If the line is out of order,
remember, you are the only repairman.
If the line has been disconnected,
remember, the only phone company
is yourself.

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