A Telephone Box is a Time Zone Box

Mama, I’m swimming down three flights of stairs
in green light. You can’t hear me yet. The tree
I’m walking past has put on ocean airs.
Up two more flights, I can’t hear for the bells
cathedralling connexion: visible
to invisible world, embrace! The box

sits blackly on the landing wall. Ayyy, box,
you’re too high up! A gecko on the stairs,
my body stretches, flattens, visible
to students who don’t ‘phone’, they ‘go’ home. Tree
doesn’t sound submarine to them; no bells,
no whistles, hum and buzz, press on their airs.

No bloody privacy. So, put on airs
they can’t translate. Hola, dígame, box,
can I get home on this line? Riding bells,
the idea of earthquakes shatters up the stairs.
Whales dive, chew through cable. Windstruck, a tree
snaps wires. Numbers make you visible,

I dial them, the dirt ain’t visible,
but grotty to my fingerpads. Coined airs
join bells, hojas rojas singe the frosty tree,
I flatten like a gecko to the box
for a collect call, Dios, cuántas stairs,
AMERICAS-1 SOUTH, submarine cable, bells.

Drink purpling Virginia creeper. Bells
are more than bread. Mira what’s visible
till it compounds and vanishes: your stairs
are an island, full of twangling airs.
Sway and speak your heart into a box,
your mother’s voice is leafing like a tree

while leaves are falling from the ocean tree
you must pass on the way to bells
that tick five hours apart. A telephone box
is a time zone box. You’re a visible
time traveller – but give yourself no airs,
chiquita, there’re drunk rowers on the stairs.

1990s, Victorian stairs,
your voice held in my hand, mine thinned by airs,
my dusk your noon, only the timebox visible.

Vahni Capildeo

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