Sunday, June 12, 2011

Dropping the Party Line (a poem)

Photograph: They Never Call by Rob Hanson. Used with permission for One Stop poetry.

Dropping the Party Line

Dust settles
its shiny patina
immortalized in time

have you heard?
have you heard?

Mrs Wells' daughter,
Julie, lost...

the baby had...
poor dear...

I picked some apples
and made the family a pie
it's settin' by the window now...

so glad the weather's
coolin' off...

I'll drop it off...

on my way...

Have you heard?
Have you heard?

they landed
at Utah
and Omaha
and Salerno

a line
of men
onto the beaches

the pastor says
we must rejoice
in our victory...

Have you heard?
Have you heard?

Joe's calf took...

and the words
are lost
gobbled up like
apple pie and ice cream
at Mr. Simon's barnraiser


and no one hears
what Joe's calf took
on the party line

Hello? Hello?

is there someone else
on the line

Is that you, Mary?

I heard your son
Billy is coming

Did you hear
Agnes' boy fell
so sad
some place called
Iwo Jima

she's takin' it

Are you there Mary?

and silently the line
holds time
and Agnes
the receiver

She walks out the door
no longer strong
to hear
the words
she was never meant to hear

We're sorry to inform you...

in her ears
she cannot hold
the party line

and drops
the conversation.

and far away
on a blood drenched beach
guns roar
and planes soar
deadly cylinders
of war
and a boy drops
and apples fall
to the ground
from the tree
standing outside
the window
of a room
where the party line
was broken.


This poem is submitted to One Shot Sunday hosted by One Stop Poetry. To see other poems submitted and the conclusion of the interview with photographer Rob Hanson, please visit the site. (Thanks Glynn for the paragraph explaing One Shot and the inspiration to write!)


dustus said...

A beautiful conversational tapestry of life, death, and plenty in between. Great poem.

Randy Behavior said...

Sad. Of all the news spread by the wire, that would be the worst.

Louise Gallagher said...

Thanks Dustus. I love how a photo can provoke the muse to rise.

Thanks for dropping by Randy -- I can't imagine -- and yet it happens all the time, that mother's and father's receive such news via a phone line.


Brian Miller said...

wow this went here there and everywhere in the convo, feeling like a great community and then you really brought it home...tight emo by the end...well spoke...

kez said...

wow powerful stuff loved the gossipy conservation in this ... shame most bad things and some good things are first heard still via the phone. I loved your poem thank you

Louise said...

A great write...with lots sadness & apple pie in between...I enjoyed it a lot! (and yes, a terrific name!)

Anonymous said...

words drifting
all kind
on the party

Claudia said...

with the apple pie you created this home feeling for me_and outside just horrible things happen and suddenly it's not outside any more but hits like meteors into the lives..powerful

Louise Gallagher said...

Thanks Brian -- I was a bit surprised where it went!

Louise Gallagher said...

It is a shame Kez -- I still dread middle of the night calls -- they feel so fear-ridden even when they're not!

Thanks for dropping by.

Louise Gallagher said...

Hi Louise -- I was on a party line once upon a time -- and even though I tried to avoid eavesdropping, sometimes it was impossible not to!


Louise Gallagher said...

nance -- your graceful way of weaving your response into poetry that mirrors the words on the page is awesome!

Thank you.

Louise Gallagher said...


I was wondering where you were and then this morning, I found you.

I rely on my Bloglist to update me on when people log in -- and of course, there you had gone and moved over to wordpress!

So very happy to have found you again!!!

Fireblossom said...

Wow, what a timely evocation of the not so distant past.

I can't imagine if it were my son going off to war. I wouldn't sleep til he got back. it must be an exquisite and exhausting torture, worrying, let alone actually receiving the worst news...

Louise Gallagher said...

Hi Fireblossom, I can't imagine it either -- a friend of my daughters from school joined the military and went to Afghanistan and was killed. It was tragic and horrifying and sad.

Thanks for dropping in.

Josie said...

Tragic, beautiful, intense. I loved it! I grew up in a rural area at a time when many friends and relatives living in the country still had "party lines", and I recall the listening, gossip and information exchanged. I hadn't thought about that in years. Thank you for bringing a slice of history back into focus in such a moving way!

Maureen said...

Recalling a time when our family was part of a party line and how annoying it could be. I like how you drove home the unintended consequences of such conversations. Some still learn tragic news in highly disturbing ways.

Evocative poem!

Reflections said...

Somewhat like an old quilt, each piece holding someone's heart... special moments, tragic loss, oh but the cohesiveness bringing it all together in warmth for the one left in the cold dark moments.

Anonymous said...

so many conversations woven together with words...capturing moments of life...this feels real. 'nuff said!

S. Etole said...

my grandparents had a phone like this ... you've depicted it so accurately

Glynn said...

I love this, Louise. My grandmother was on a party line for years, and these exact kinds of conversations happened.

Sean Vessey said...

Beautiful Louise. I enjoyed the river of stories on the party line... Thank you for sharing it

Patricia said...

Such an accurate slice of life. And the way you wrote it made me feel like I was on the line listening in too. Wonderful.

Ruth said...

Very nicely done.

Maybe the party line was comparable to text messages now.

trisha said...

i utterly detest wars.

Anonymous said...

Just how it was! Helpful sense of community, downright gossips, and sometimes the gossip got you.