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Rotary Analysis

Author: poem of Christina Pugh Type: poem Views: 5

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Closer to a bell than a bird,

that clapper ringing

the clear name

of its inventor:

by turns louder

and quieter than a clock,

its numbered face

was more literate,

triplets of alphabet

like grace notes

above each digit.

And when you dialed,

each number was a shallow hole

your finger dragged

to the silver


then the sound of the hole

traveling back

to its proper place

on the circle.

You had to wait for its return.

You had to wait.

Even if you were angry

and your finger flew,

you had to await

the round trip

of seven holes

before you could speak.

The rotary was weird for lag,

for the afterthought.

Before the touch-tone,

before the speed-dial,

before the primal grip

of the cellular,

they built glass houses

around telephones:

glass houses in parking lots,

by the roadside,

on sidewalks.

When you stepped in

and closed the door,

transparency hugged you,

and you could almost see

your own lips move,

the dumb-show

of your new secrecy.

Why did no one think

to conserve the peal?

Just try once

to sing it to yourself:

it's gone,

like the sound of breath

if your body left.


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