One afternoon shortly after four the telephone
in the hall rang,
Echoing all the way to the bedroom my parents
Dad was there, snoring loudly, in his underwear
and white sweat socks.
Mom lifted the phone from the hook, looked at it
and said, “Hello?”
The hall light was on outside the bathroom door;
a pile of clothes
Lay on the empty hope chest waiting to be folded.
Mom said, “Yes?”
The empty hope chest was the perfect thing to hold
Mom’s voice was warmer sounding than the phone’s
harsh electric ring
Which could be heard outside on a summer day with
the windows open
And the dusty curtains flicking out like dry tongues
of panting dogs.
“Our brother George has died,” said the tiny voice
in Mom’s right ear.
It was her sister’s voice telling her, and the little sound
An axe man’s final blow to the base of a tree
Like a rip across the earth.
Mom held the phone away from her and looked
down the hall
To the room where she and dad slept
Dad drew another long loud breath on their bed
in the room
At the end of the hall echoing in the silence.