Parable of the telephone

Leslie Harrison

& the phone in Japan calls the dead

& what is the country code for missing

& the ocean an unmarkable grave

& the dead therefore everywhere in the water

& therefore everywhere

& what is the area code for after

& still I call the same number

& hers first then my stepfather’s

& he is gone but I kept calling the dead

& what is the exchange for absence

& over and over I tell the sky I’m okay

& not great but okay

& over and over I mow the suburban lawn

& here in this city neither of them ever came to

& here in this unrecognizable house

& the ocean is always just the ocean

& the living perform their lives in ten thousand rooms

& we become ghosts to rooms we’ve abandoned

& become their dead

& how many more places and houses before I die

& a phone booth in a garden in Japan

& what is the number for sorrow

& operator I want to speak with the wind

& daily call all the dead

& say we miss you we loved you the lilacs are back

& I’m drunk on their sweetness

& the late snow falls onto their pale their cold faces


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