On the Phone by Michael Milburn

That whooshing, watery,
radio-being-tuned sound
tells me he’s outdoors
on his way somewhere
and I’d better talk fast.
I can’t remember
the last time I phoned him
without dreading that countdown
to when he says, “I’m going
into the subway, Dad, got to go.”
Lately, he even calls me from the street—
a convenient way to keep
his keeping in touch short. He’s right—
I’d talk to him for an hour,
marching through my pent-up questions.
It tires me, wanting him so much,
the resistance with which he responds.
I bet there’s a girl out there
he’d duck into a lobby
to keep speaking to
as long as she desired. Instead,
he tells me that I’m breaking up,
and there’s a sound
as if he’s dropped the phone
into a rushing river, which then
pulls him in too, his life.

“On the Phone” by Michael Milburn, from Drive By Heart. © Word Press, 2009.

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