I didn’t know there could be so many silences
listening in on our conversation,
or having their own conversations
like sleepless passengers in a row,
vapors of mingling
gin and vermouth above each empty
plastic airline cup in business class.
Silences cut in and out
along with the phantom voices that sometimes haunt my line:
are you stopping in Kalamazoo?
Not on your life. Radiation
has certain side effects. That’s all my father says
on bad days,
and who knows how far he’s traveled
just to get to our conversation.
He used to travel a lot on business,
and when he came home from New York or Chicago,
part of him seemed missing
less precisely than the Arrow shirts or sock cocoons
entombed in the suitcase lost by TWA.
Lately he’s home whenever I call.
My mother’s voice is a bright pool
sailboats knife across but