Call Waiting

By Vona Groarke

Three times I call, three times you’re engaged.
You know I am incoming, according to the voice:
my call heralds itself with two round pips,
beads on a chain of intimate, dead air
coiled like the flex around your index finger now
as you stand in the kitchen of the house where I am not
and where, upstairs, is the ring he gave her,
that she gave to me and his dove-tailed dress-jacket
she begged me not to wear but I did anyway,
sixteen, blue-haired, all my plans laid out as parallels
marked with a ruler and measured for space
claimed as gracelessly as those black squares
we inked on our fingernails. I must have been nine
when I learned to split a circle three-ways
from just above the centre out, like the Pye sign
in the country town we drove through yesterday.
The boy who told my fortune in Greece
said I had too many lines: they threw him
every which way and he couldn’t tell my heart
from head or how the life would span,
but he was right about the indoor garden
I planted with ivy and the little gate that opens
on nothing but its own three arduous notes.
There’s a leaf of copper beech in my hand now
and the voice is telling me to hold for a connection.
I tear along the veins and find I am left
with one trefoil that splays like any fish spine
or the crow’s feet that have settled round my eyes.
My call is brushing up against yours now
like a ten cent coin between two fifties in my pocket
or a marble with three colours curled
to skim the arc of two others in its path.
Or like the way your breath on the back of my hand
had three things to say, and none of them got said.


By kind permission of the author and The Gallery Press, Loughcrew, Oldcastle, County Meath, Ireland from Selected Poems (2016).