Learning To Talk
For my brother
In the years when the house was loud
With argument and tears we learned
To cast voices, ventriloquists for
The lambskin dog, the comedian clown,
Petey the father bear, that trio
Who traveled the world together,
Beat back armies, caged or killed
When the three were retired
To the back of the closet, eyeless
And balding, dribbling stuffing,
Our voices faded and the house
Fell quiet, except for the rattle
Of the tin can telephone, ``Can
You hear me?'' before the string
Went slack, or ``Do you read me?''
Over the static of the walkie-talkies,
My room to your dirt cellar dugout.
Sometimes a pencilled note, ``Send message,''
Arrived on the Lionel train whose tracks
We laid down the hall, or in a mailbox,
Thirty years later, stacked in a pile
With bills and junk mail.
For the telephone company on cables of light,
On memory thin as soap bubble film; I study
The talk of children at play, still trying
To make out the answer, ``Can you hear me?
Do you read me? Send message, over and out.''