The Dial Tone
Two pieces to the telephone.
You’d lift the receiver from the base
and hold it to the side of your face.
The receiver was hard as a bone,
and the cord could stretch or retract
like a muscle. It looked like a spiral fry,
the cord, like a ringlet curl. Hi,
this is Hannah, I’d say, and would ask
to speak with my friend. Because
there was no way of knowing who
was on the other end, reaching through.
To answer, you’d ask, Hello, then pause.
The caller could have been anyone.
It was exciting. A voice could surprise
you. It was easier to memorize
phone numbers. No, it was fun,
I’d make a little song out of the beeps
their sequence of keys made, the pitch
varied based on the key. You couldn’t switch
between calls. You would have to keep
the line open if you were expecting
a call. You knew that the phone
was working if there was a dial tone.
You could take the receiver, bring
it to your ear. Like one note hummed
by a robot, unwavering, like a vacuum
gargling, like a fridge in an empty room,
almost like music, dumbed down, numbed.