hanging on the telephone

when i was a child
my father gave me a broken telephone

i took it apart
unscrewed it as far as i could
left it as a pile of pieces
a metallic jigsaw puzzle

i had no goal, no purpose in this dissection
i wasn’t trying to figure out how it worked
i just wanted to see its innards
laid out before me

it seemed so strange to think
how that mass of metal and wires and mechanical odors
could make something so useful

its pieces laid out like that
it was useless

in those days telephones felt real
they reeked of metal and oil and carbon
they had a dial that spun around
and a little catch for your finger
and a handset that was heavy and solid

i can still smell it
the sense memory is deep
i can taste its aura
dry and cracked and forlorn

this was how the world was back then
typewriters that creaked and aged
adding machines that were too heavy to lift
stereo speakers covered in real wood

my father made bookshelves from
cement blocks and two by fours
no sauder or ikea kits back then
everything had to be rugged but portable

we moved around so often
so everything had to have the appearance of permanence
but dissolvable in a heartbeat

my father’s favorite hobby was
going to auctions of dead farmers
and bidding on blind boxes
whatever’s in this crate
you’re not allowed to look
what are you willing to pay

i remember the patter of the auctioneers
the way the words ran together in a river of sounds
so quickly
laid on top of each other in an impossible tongue

one voice
multiple tracks of words
rapid fire yet completely discernible
going going sold

when we moved back to the city
my father got his fix from the salmagundi board
on the annual pbs auction
channel 56

he developed relationships with the people on the phone
as he called in his bids
but i could tell it was not the same

not the same as opening that blind box
full of greasy and rusting tools
for those hidden gems that would go on the wall
in his workshop

no taxidermied heads to boast of his hunts
his trophies were just-right wiresnips and
the hefty wrenches of yesteryear
where he could pretend to be the farmer
he’d always wanted to be

and me
i got a telephone
black and heavy and full of toxins
torn apart just to see its innards


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