Explication of a Dial Tone

Lawrence Di Stefano

Even as the sound of rain lessens outside a window in 1982, there is no reassurance

you will return—sitting there instead, not entering the dark, discerning a likeness

in its distance, instead, as each drop holds there.   Do you remember there was a pay phone on that corner?

If you could not be reached it was because you were unable or just didn’t want to be

bothered. No excuses, no explanation for being out of reach now. We were once joined by

a line—a line which ran under the feet of strangers, through a city of strangers

on long aimless walks in a certain part of a city in rain—in rain, no one notices there are

pay phones still standing, no longer functioning—receivers busted or pulled out

completely. Down on the corner, now, there is only anxiety waiting under an awning, its faint

outline can still be seen on the sidewalk where someone once stood in a line

to call someone. Then, all you needed was quarter and time to think about what you were

going to say, in three minutes, if they answered.  Do you have a quarter?  The silence of

a call not answered. Now accept that sound as settlement, please    the rattle of metal

and move on toward me. Let it drench you, fifth avenue     ringing     distant,

how we’ve made this technology some form of saying     Hello?     without saying—

right now it’s raining, and it’s saying it, again—phone in your hand, always,

like the hand of another—but I am dry, sweet, and let me tell you, there is still rain in the age

of high speed, filling up in an old tin can, and for that matter, all the empty spaces

on the street, making an impression around a space the shape of me     I’m sorry     I’m slow

to find those reasons for moving—for calling out, instead—and to

modern loving, concerned more with the rain against my absence in the world,

absence in this time of availability. Sweet one, to have all this, a smart phone, and to have

nothing to say—rain coming down, now, and again, even more—but I know where you are,

that is, what you must be saying, which is not saying it to me, but to something

just out of reach, moving a little too fast and far away to hear it.

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