The Telephone Number

Searching for a lost address I find,
Among dead papers in a dusty drawer,
A diary which has lain there quite ten years,
And soon forget what I am looking for,
Intrigued by cryptic entries in a hand
Resembling mine but noticeably more
Vigorous than my present quavering scrawl.
Appointments—kept or not, I don't remember—
With people now grown narrow, fat or bald;
A list of books that somehow I have never
Found the time to read, nor ever shall,
Remind me that my world is growing cold.
And then I find a scribbled code and number,
The urgent words: 'Must not forget to call.'
But now, of course, I have no recollection
Of telephoning anyone at all.
The questions whisper: Did I dial that number
And, if I did, what kind of voice replied?
Questions that will never find an answer
Unless—the thought is serpentine—I tried
To telephone again, as years ago
I did, or meant to do. What would I find
If now I lifted this mechanic slave
Black to my ear and spun the dial—so... ?
Inhuman, impolite, the double burp
Erupts, insulting hope. The long dark sleeve
Of silence stretches out. No stranger's voice
Slips in, suspicious, cold; no manic speech
Telling what I do not wish to know
Nor throaty message creamed with sensual greed—
Nothing of these. And, when again I try,
Relief is tearful when there's no reply.

by Vernon Scannell

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