Beige Wall Telephone, 1960s

Michael McFee

To you who have never known what it is to be tethered      to the family's one phone by a corkscrew cord           filthied by idle fingers twisting it as we talkedand stretched by our efforts to sneak with the handsetaway from the dining room where that cheap plastic box        clung to the wall, my sister and I desperate                to hide behind curtains or in a nearby roomand mumble dumb endearments to whichever lucky soulwe had a crush on that week: I won't say how wonderful       it felt to hear a call's unexpected tremolo              and rush to answer that sudden summons,lifting the receiver's heavy curve out of its metal hook,or to dial seven numbers on a whirring analog wheel      and hear a distant ringing pulse in the ear,              knowing that actual bells trilled as a bodymoved through space to deliver its hopeful Hello?no, it was awful, that phone, intended for businesses,       brisk standing exchanges of information,              not a home where its too-public anchoringleft adolescent siblings open to each other's mockeryand the cocked ears of nosy parents straining to decode         one side of conversations as we curled closer                 to the wall and whispered words downwardinto the darkness that our huddling made, not pacinglike a barking dog chained to a stake in the backyard        but trying our best to vanish, descending               slow as a diver sipping words like oxygenfrom a humming line whose other end kept us breathing.

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A native of Asheville, Michael McFee has taught in the Creative Writing Program at UNC-Chapel Hill since 1990. He is the author of eleven books of poetry—including five published by Carnegie Mellon University Press: We Were Once Here, That Was Oasis, Shinemaster, Earthly, and Colander—and two collections of essays, Appointed Rounds: Essays (Mercer University Press) and The Napkin Manuscripts: Selected Essays and an Interview (University of Tennessee Press). He has received the James Still Award for Writing about the Appalachian South, from the Fellowship of Southern Writers, and the Thomas Wolfe Memorial Literary Award from the Western North Carolina Historical Association.

56:2

Savannah, Georgia

Editor
 James Smith

Associate Editor
 Tony Morris

Southern Poetry Review is the second oldest poetry journal in the region, with its origins in Florida and subsequent moves to North Carolina and now Georgia. Continuing the tradition of editorial openness and response to writers that began with Guy Owen in 1958, SPR publishes poems from all over the country as well as from abroad and maintains a worldwide readership. Past issues feature work from Chana Bloch, Billy Collins, Alice Friman, David Hernandez, Andrew Hudgins, Maxine Kumin, Heather McHugh, Sue William Silverman, R. T. Smith, Eric Trethewey, and Cecilia Woloch.

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