Alison Hicks is the author of poetry collections You Who Took the Boat Out and Kiss, a chapbook Falling Dreams, and a novella Love: A Story of Images. Her work has appeared in Eclipse, Gargoyle, Permafrost, and Poet Lore, and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize by Green Hills Literary Lantern. She is founder of Greater Philadelphia Wordshop Studio, which offers community-based writing workshops:
After his wife got sick, when he still had his own lab,
late Friday afternoons we used to talk
in the hour before I had to pick up my son from aftercare.
I’d look out the window: slanting light, the copper beech.
When his voice dropped away and I couldn’t hear,
I stayed on, as I had years ago, late at night in our dorms,
talked until I was sick of talking, not wanting to hang up.
This wasn’t just on my side. We both had a hard time
disengaging, our voices making another circle as our time wore out
and I had to run out to the car and hope to beat traffic,
a lingering I never experienced like that with anyone else.
This is your dad, bellowed into the phone,
sometimes prefaced with Bonjour!
Identification hardly necessary, clear from the first syllable.
Sunday nights. Always in the middle of something, I was,
no matter how I tried to avoid it, getting ready for the week ahead.
Growing up, when my mother told him to lower his voice
on the phone to my grandmother,
he’d say I have to shout all the way to California.
When my mother fell asleep on an airplane
and couldn’t be woken up,
I came home from evening work, late.
The phone rang. I can’t do it, I’m just too tired, I said.
You have to take this, my husband said,
pressing the receiver into my hands.
Better to text or FaceTime.
His chin has a tendency
to drift, taking his voice with it,
pointing out to the world,
not into a microphone.
I can’t hear you, honey,
can you speak into the phone?
I am, I am, he insists
and the conversation ends
in a swirl of familial annoyance.
His long man’s face appears in the screen,
Colorado sky behind him,
free of particulate.