fall 2018 / Poetry 2018 / volume 49

Notes on International Communication—Marne Wilson

I.

Thirty years ago, my brother went to Egypt.
Contact was difficult, but we managed it.

Some Sunday afternoons we tried to call him.
My little-girl fingers loved to dial the phone,
spinning the wheel to each number in the long sequence
and then starting all over again when we got cut off.

Most of the time there were letters,
long newsy ones that related all our family’s trivialities
and all his family’s adventures.

And then there were the videotapes.
We had to buy our first VCR just to watch them
and got a more intimate view of the household
than if they had been living next door:
watching the servants hang new curtains,
witnessing the baby’s first steps,
becoming carsick from shots out the window
on the way to some tourist spot.

It was almost like being there ourselves,
just with a several-week delay.

Today my brother lives in Colorado.
I’ve never dialed his number, nor he mine.

II.

Ten years ago, I sent a man to Spain.
I was afraid of losing contact over that vast distance,
but he assured me he would tell me everything.

Facebook allowed him to relate every detail immediately:
the debauchery of a late-night street fair,
the disgusting Paella Helper in the cafeteria,
the luxurious Madrid chocolate festival.
It was just like being there myself.

He had promised to tell me everything,
and he did so to a fault.
One cold Sunday morning
(already a lazy Sunday afternoon in Spain),
he blurted out over instant messaging
that he was, at that very moment,
lying in bed with another woman.
He was so proud that he had kept his word,
and he could not understand why I would be upset.

III.

Last fall, my husband traveled to Quebec,
and, to be safe, I traveled there myself.
We turned our cell phones off and simply talked,
international communication at its finest.

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