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.

© Linda Pastan