This week’s poem is a great comic yarn of the old Maine haunting the new. I love Nicole Chvatal’s cheekily assured narrator, her terrific storytelling rhythms and asides, and her perfectly delicious sting of an ending.

Chvatal writes property deeds and lives in Bath. Her work has appeared in Pilgrimage and Verseweavers. She is a graduate of the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College.

 

Call Me

By Nicole Chvatal

 

It used to be Herb Lily

had my number

but now that I have his

when local lobstermen call

442-8531 looking for alewives

at five in the morning,

it takes me three or four rings

to answer no, I’m not married,

you’ve dialed the wrong number what time is it this isn’t

the water department.

 

Daylight Saving Time ends

but my phone rings nonstop.

“I heard Herb Lily died in 2009,”

my mother claimed after not answering my call

when Herb Lily appeared on her phone’s ID,

because she’s not one to talk to ghosts.

 

In the sticks of Maine, the reception is terrible,

even for the dead. I had no choice

but to install a land line, not knowing

the whole town still had Herb’s old number

on speed-dial, and upon hearing of his passing,

got to wondering

if there was any possibility

I’d taken over casting his dip nets

from the banks of the Nequasset—me

to sell them alewives at day break, the silvery

fish running by the thousands

in their springtime spawn from salt to fresh

interrupted only when caught as juicy lobster bait.

Could I meet them at the town dock?

Could they call me later this week?

No, I say, still dry behind the gills,

shaking out the city anonymity from my eyes,

I’m not the fishing type.

 

Megan Grumbling is a poet and writer who lives in Portland. Deep Water: Maine Poems is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. “Call Me” copyright © 2020 by Nicole Chvatal. It appears by permission of the author.


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