Friday, May 14, 2010

Charles Tomlinson On Cellphones: "The Self-sufficiency Of Trees"

Imagine: there once was a time when people walked abroad in the world without telephones.  How did we fill our days?  In that dark and benighted past, one could stroll beneath the sky unaccompanied by the sound of the one-sided cellphone conversations of strangers.  Ah, welladay!

The following poem is by Charles Tomlinson. 

                   All Aboard

All aboard and then
the entire train
breaks into phone fever and
intimacies of every kind
blossom into relations, revelations
as bosoms unburden themselves and stand
stark in that no-man's-land of tattle
confronting the traveller:
I must exchange my seat and get
into the phone-free hermitage where I
can contemplate the self-sufficiency of trees,
the passing landscape and the sky,
but someone has anticipated me
and is talking into the mouthpiece of his machine
-- the others are too well-mannered to intervene but I
tap his shoulder, tap again to snip
the unbreakable ticker-tape of his privacies
which have not ceased and do not until I lean
closer to indicate the to him invisible sign:
he lurches up and awake and gripping
his still unsheathed weapon makes
for the pollutable corridor.  The others are silent --
disappointed: clearly they had been trying to filter out
the inessentials and impose their own storyline.
I had frustrated them with that fastidiousness of mine.
Too late for landscape now.  I take out
a book too ruffled to read it --
close your eyes, there are no exceptional things
to surprise them in the dark out there.
I even fall asleep, then wake to the hiss of the brakes,
the shudder of resistance -- we have arrived and so
I stand and step down into Gloucestershire in a Scotch mist.

Published in The Times Literary Supplement on February 11, 2005.

               C. W. Eckersberg, "The Cloisters, San Lorenzo" (1824)

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