“When the Phone Rings” by Elizabeth S. Wolf

Elizabeth S. Wolf


while you’re visiting your father,
and I know it’s you because
it’s your ringtone, the notes in a tune
you chose, so it would be bright and
I would know it was you, and
answer my phone, so it’s a sound
both buoyant and urgent, it’s a
need in three notes, and while I wish
you weren’t visiting your father,
since it upsets you when you do, there’s
always some part of the story you’ll
tell me that’s off, that raises an
alarm, a flag, but after all this time
we don’t need subtle clues, do we,
we know he’s not right, so is it wise
to visit him again but in the back
of our minds is the night he was so
stoned on the phone and then dead
on the men’s room floor—
but they brought him back—
and so you go, again, to his new
sober living apartment because what if
next time he is gone, what if, and so
you go visit and I answer the ringing phone
for you to tell me you hiked up a hill
so high you saw all the way to Boston and
there were clouds reflected in the glass
of the Hancock building, like the blue sky
was both solid as a tower and as
gossamer as hope and anyway
you are on the road and your
favorite artist just dropped an album
so you need me to stay off our shared
Spotify so you can sing out loud
all the way home.

from Rattle #75, Spring 2022
Tribute to Librarians


Elizabeth S. Wolf: “I got my MLS in the long-ago times, before the internet, back when electronic searches were expensive and cool and run by librarians. I wrote a hypertext glossary for the National Agricultural Library as a beta tester for this radical new tool. I worked the reference desk at a university, the circulation desk at a high school, and moved into database design, marketing, and technical support. At EBSCO I worked on the Literary Reference Center and the Poetry and Short Story Reference Center. One of my bucket-list goals is to get one of my poetry books included in their collections. ‘When the Phone Rings’ was written at Fall Writerfest at the Pyramid Life Center in response to a close reading of Ross Gay. It was great to get away and write and there was no Wi-Fi or cell service. A plus for concentration but frustrating when you’re used to being able to google definitions and synonyms and etymology to validate word choices. I left the retreat and went straight to a public library in the Adirondacks. True story. Shout out to the library on the second floor of town hall, across from the public beach at Schroon Lake.”

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