Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Watson, come here.

From Garrison Keillor's Writers' Almanac today:

It was on this day in 1876 that Alexander Graham Bell received patent No. 174,465 for the telephone. He filed for his patent on the same day as a Chicago electrician named Elisha Gray filed for a patent on basically the same device. Bell only beat Gray by two hours. Bell offered to sell his patent to Western Union for $100,000, but Western Union turned him down.

In honor of this event, an old poem of mine:

The Message

"Mr. Watson, come here. I want you."
--first words spoken via telephone


Alexander Bell, working fiercely in the lab,
spilled acid on himself that day.
There was something about invention
and necessity, and his words crackled out
into another room, thin and urgent,
carried through air into a moment
when everything changed.

Why then do we always wait
until that last panicked moment
to shout out what we need? We build
the devices, thin glowing wires,
lay the paths to carry signals
from lips to distant ear,
set up elaborate inventions

of intention, plot the ways to speak
our need, then let the creation sit
while we fiddle with one toggle or the next
never testing it by giving voice -- but
finally the burning
becomes too much to bear, impulsively
we grab the wires and cross the distance

with what we know, once said,
is true. Desire crackles out
into another room. Come here.
I want you.
published in New Zoo Poetry Review, 1998
and in A Linen Weave of Bloomington Poets, ed. by Jenny Kander (Lexington, KY: Wind, 2002)

4 comments:

hd said...

love it!

Garbo said...

Hmm, which IS worse, the burn or the fear of potential rejection? Well, anyway, I liked "We build
the devices, thin glowing wires,lay the paths to carry signals from lips to distant ear" because it made me picture synapses in my brain, offering potential pathways.

Trista said...

I really love it when you post your poems...

Anne said...

Thanks, all. :) Hey Garbo -- this poem is old enough that you may have actually seen it before, back in Source days!

Trista - I may post some more in the near-ish future, though I don't usually post unpublished stuff. But I have a post in mind about a poem I wrote in response to an earlier poem of mine (yeah, hopelessly self-indulgent, I know).