Back to Issue Sixteen.




Even seashells hold the hum moan of dial tone—
That voice. If I could only let go of what echoes

in the ear’s oval window. Are you still there?
Every time I cradle a phone, I hear your new wife,

say your heart is failing or falling
apart. The arteries are always constricting.

The plastic receiver, hard as a hammer
between my neck and shoulder. Ringing off walls,

the lingering call I never meant to answer.
Because once, I called at too late an hour,

the ringtone shattered your eighth nerve,
sent the message to your brain to beat her.

You work in the mornings and can’t be disturbed
by midnight light. I never mean to

remember. The phone is always back in my palm;
I walk the echoing hallway alone.

I am the daughter who gave her father away
the night I pressed my face to the phone

and told them, He’s going to kill her.


Is he there right now? Your hand on her collar
twisting her body over basement stairs,

ready to drop her. The arteries are hard.
Her body in a moment will be a hard seed

dropped from a high tree and whirling
toward disaster, a wall. I thought when the call came

I wouldn’t answer. Her face cradling concrete
while I choked on the answers: He’s here.

Send someone. Anyone. The telephone catching
half word, half sob. They said I was hard to hear,

could I speak more clearly, could I calm my nerves
and repeat where we lived. It was nowhere,

some suburb. You’re still there. She calls from
your bedroom, walls dented by the same shoulders.

I answer because I need to know if it’s over,
the moan—the dial tone living under my life.

People call every day, their lilts nothing
like your grates turned groans. Your failing heart.

The hammer on my shoulder. I never meant to answer.

M. Ann Hull has had work published in 32 Poems, Barrow Street Journal, BOXCAR Poetry Review, Mid-American Review, Passages North, and Quarterly West, among others. She has won the Ed Ochester Award for Poetry and the Academy of American Poets Prize. A former poetry editor of Black Warrior Review, she holds an MFA from the University of Alabama.

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