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The Answering Machine

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I call and hear your voice
on the answering machine
weeks after your death,
a fledgling ghost still longing
for human messages.

Shall I leave one, telling
how the fabric of our lives
has been ripped before
but that this sudden tear will not
be mended soon or easily?

In your emptying house, others
roll up rugs, pack books,
drink coffee at your antique table,
and listen to messages left
on a machine haunted

by the timbre of your voice,
more palpable than photographs
or fingerprints. On this first day
of this first fall without you,
ashamed and resisting

but compelled, I dial again
the number I know by heart,
thankful in a diminished world
for the accidental mercy of machines,
then listen and hang up.

Source: Poetry

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This poem originally appeared in the August 2000 issue of Poetry magazine

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The Answering Machine

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