Contents | April 2002

In This Issue (Contributors)

More on poetry from The Atlantic Monthly.


From Atlantic Unbound:

Interviews: "The Art of Living" (February 6, 2002)
In her first poetry collection since a near-fatal accident, Maxine Kumin celebrates the forms that life and writing take.

Also by Maxine Kumin:
Oblivion (2000)
The Word (1994)
The Nuns of Childhood: Two Views (1992)
Continuum: A Love Poem (1980)
January 25th (1965)
Grace (1961)

The Atlantic Monthly | April 2002
 
The Sunday Phone Call

by Maxine Kumin
 
.....
 
audioear pictureHear Maxine Kumin read this poem (in RealAudio)


Drab December, sleet falling.
Dogs loosely coiled in torpor.
Horses nose-down in hay.
It's the hour years ago
I used to call my parents
or they'd call me.

The phone rings. Idly
empty of expectation
I answer. It's my father's
voice. Pop! I say, you're dead!
Don't you remember
that final heart attack,
Dallas, just before
Kennedy was shot?


Time means nothing here,
kiddo.
He's jolly, expansive.
You can wait eons for an open line.
Time gets used up but
comes back. You know.
Like Ping-Pong.

Ping-Pong! The table in
the attic. My father, shirtsleeves
rolled, the wet stub of
a burnt-out cigarette
stuck to his lower lip as
he murdered each one
of my three older brothers
and me yearning under the eaves,
waiting for my turn.

You sound ... just like yourself,
I say. I am myself, goddammit!
Anyway, what's this
about an accident?


How did you hear about it?
I read it somewhere. Broke
your neck, et cetera.

He says this vaguely,
his shorthand way
of keeping feelings at bay.

Now I'm indignant.
But I almost died!

Didn't I tell you
never buy land on a hill?
It's worthless. What's
an educated dame like you
doing messing with horses?
Messing with horses is
for punks.
Then, a little
softer, I see you two've
put a lot of work into
that hunk of real estate.


Thanks. Thanks for even
noticing. We love it here.
We'll never sell.


Like hell you won't!
You will!


Pop, I say, tearing up,
let's not fight for once.
My only Poppa, when
do I get to see you?


A long pause. Then,
coughing his cigarette cough,
Pupchen, he says,
I may be dead but
I'm not clairvoyant.
Behave yourself.

The line clicks off.


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Copyright © 2002 by The Atlantic Monthly Group. All rights reserved.
The Atlantic Monthly; April 2002; The Sunday Phone Call; Volume 289, No. 4; 59.