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The Signal
Stephen Anderson


 A five hour road trip and three hours of moving my daughter
back into her dormitory have left me hot and tired, a refugee in
a downtown Minneapolis hotel.  Nevertheless, I feel obliged to call
an elderly aunt whom I have seen a total of four times over the last
quarter century.  When she answers, her reedy voice quavers with
a peculiar tone of strident urgency, and she asks ? no, she insists
that we drive out to visit her and my uncle at their west-side
suburb, really the last thing on my mind this humid, smoldering
late-summer afternoon with threatening-looking rain-clouds already
thundering across the plains off to the west. So I regrettably decline
her frantic request and tell her that such a trip would be nigh on
impossible, which is something that my aunt does not want to hear
because she obsessively repeats her wish with her former urgency
now turned to a tone of sheer desperation.  A captive of exhaustion,
I do not take the hint, nor can I hear her real message, the one
vibrating up from her heart like a call from the other world
to which only she knows she will soon go.


This poem first appeared in the 2008 Wisconsin Poets' Calendar.
Used here with the author's permission.



Stephen Anderson is a Milwaukee, Wisconsin poet and translator whose award-winning work has appeared in numerous print and online journals and has been featured on the Milwaukee NPR affiliate, WUWM Lake Effect Program. Stephen is the author of three chapbooks and three full length collections, and several of his poems formed the text for a song cycle in The Privileged Secrets of the Arch, a chamber music composition performed by members of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and an opera singer. A fourth poetry collection, On the Third Planet from the Sun: New and Selected Poems, is forthcoming in the summer of 2024 (Kelsay Books). Stephen’s work is being archived in the Stephen Anderson Collection in the Raynor Libraries at Marquette University.



Post New Comment:
I have followed these daily poems for years and never commented. Does not mean I was not thrilled, pummeled, moved, saddened, gladdened nor inspired. But today, I must say, caused me to just break down and sob. For her. For him. And for the world. I could see my last aunt in her 90's so frail and so identical to my lost mother. Thank you sir for showing us how to describe the pain of lost opportunity. Just stunning.
Posted 08/30/2016 09:50 PM
Stunning & insightful! Thanks, Steven.
Posted 08/30/2016 12:04 PM
Lori Levy:
Powerful ending.
Posted 08/30/2016 09:35 AM
Wonderful prose poem. Thanks.
Posted 08/30/2016 09:25 AM
Both guilty and sad. I've been there. You have put it so well. Simple and true.
Posted 08/30/2016 08:53 AM
Larry Schug:
Why are lessons always learned too late? You'd think guilt would keep us from making the same mistakes over and over. Excellently expressed sentiments without being sentimental.
Posted 08/30/2016 08:00 AM
Too sad!
Posted 08/30/2016 04:31 AM

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