The Spike [or Victoria University College Review 1961]
'If anybody rings me, I'll be back at nine!'
The girl has gone before there's time to call
an answer back. It does not greatly matter:
nobody 'phones, or if they do, the line
is faulty and whoever tries will fail
to find this number. Somewhere in the clatter
of combinations shuffled at the sub-exchange
a relay sticks because of heat and stress
or for some other reason. The puzzled caller
hears dry silence, insect etchings or a strange
half-irritated voice which answers 'Yes?'
Technicians will tomorrow spot the failure,
apologies, perhaps, for routine tests.
Meantime the borer mines the hiding place
of silence in deaf cells behind the wires.
The lady of the house is busy knitting vests
for niece or nephew not yet born; her fingers race,
missing a stitch un-noticed as the muscles tire.
It's almost nine and nobody has rung
to leave a message for the girl upstairs
who does of course have 'phone-calls on occasions,
who is not unattractive, still is young
though does not take much care with what she wears.
No-one has 'phoned. The borers' small abrasions
— those broken songs the lonely leave unsung —
are all the distant dreamed-of caller ever hears.