A pay phone is ringing. It is twelve fifteen,
a balmy summer weeknight, no one around.
The ringing is both urgent and routine.
Loud, sharp, and even, it is the only sound.
It reaches to the fountain and marigold bed,
and down the dress-shop alley, and back again,
up past the darkened windows overhead,
past the green turret, past the finial. Then
the phone stops ringing. The air continues to ring.
When it, too, stops, the calm feels tentative.
But soon it’s strong—too strong. It’s sickening.
This is no place for human beings to live.
Then, once again, the pay phone starts to ring.
It will go right on ringing. No one at all
will hear this sound. No one is listening.
But someone must have some interest in this call.
The phone rings with enough force to be heard
two hundred miles and thirty years away.
And who is the caller? A mad lover spurred
by a broken promise? A client allowed to stray
from bed at Willing Helpers? Could it be
a desperate spouse, out to arrange a hit?
Or is it a wrong number? No. It’s me,
at thirteen. Oh, how I wish I could answer it.