Brazilian Telephone

By Miriam Bird Greenberg Miriam Bird Greenberg
In the peach orchard in an old bathtub
the children are standing someone
in a bath of salt water, and one
gently attaches electrodes
to the nipples of the one
in the bath. Out of the weeds runs one
with a rescued battery from the old
motor home, which they had gotten
to rev its engine like the sad bleating
of a goat. If, later, anyone asks
how they learned to do this, in a striped shirt one
will say, Oh, I was looking for science
experiments in those old textbooks someone
got from the library book sale last year.
I have been baking all day,
and in a few minutes will start to wonder
what happened to that box of coarse kosher salt
I got just last week.
The children are all singing
some ditty from a musical
we saw at the community theater
a few days ago, and, in the tub the one
with electrodes affixed so gently
to his chest is calling
out little mews of uncertainty,
is calling and calling into the sundown
past the knotted trees with their hairy
fruits, green and hard. Hush,
hush, don’t worry, another one
is saying, fingernail following a line of text
in a complicated book. I think this one
is called the Brazilian Telephone, one
says, connecting finally,
after all this build-up, the ends of two
wires to the battery terminals
which, with steel wool stolen from the kitchen,
they had cleaned so carefully
earlier in the day.

Source: Poetry (November 2010).

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This poem originally appeared in the November 2010 issue of Poetry magazine

November 2010
 Miriam  Bird   Greenberg

Biography

Miriam Bird Greenberg was born in 1980 and grew up in rural Texas. She studied English and studio arts at the University of Pittsburgh, earned an MFA in Poetry from the Michener Center for Writers, and currently lives in Oakland, CA, where she is a Wallace Stegner fellow at Stanford University.

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Activities, Travels & Journeys, Social Commentaries

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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