Static Currents

‘I, perhaps, may claim to be the first person who ever listened to static currents’ – Thomas A Watson

On Sunday nights, from city noise there was
a reprieve. The galvanised wire was run
over housetops; the first telephone wire               cream, you were cream, and your receiving hand

outdoors was ready to receive. Dots and
dashes of Morse code would never stop, but
the currents in these telegraph wires were                           strong. You waited in the hall, my hero
                                                                                                      with perspex face, tattooed one to zero
weak – not enough to trouble us; soothing
as raindrops. No electric trolley cars
to shriek their rattling current noise into                              a code to rescue me from what? A land

our wire. No electric light systems to
speak of back then. In this early silence
the electric choir made mystic music –                                 of silent books? Did we manage to click
                                                                                               when I pressed you to my right ear? Recall
I held the telephone to my ear and
for hours I would not tire listening to
stray electric currents. I often sat                          vague; something pulsed, but then nothing at all

alone. The most common sound was a snap
followed by a grating sound. It lasted
two or three seconds and then faded to                                       when I held you to my left. Electric

silence. I own, my favourite was like
the chirp of a bird. My profound theory
is that they were signals from another                  floored, I forced you to replay this switch game:
                                                                                        hear me, hear me not. Hear me, hear me not –

planet or came from explosions on the
sun. They were drowned out, these delicate sounds,
when we were beset by electric lights                      what was your magic pitch, your key, your clef

and power dynamos. They could not be
heard again, unless a wire were run in
some wilderness, without threat from any       that unlocked the hearing world’s outright claim –
                                                                                 with what strange sounds and jangling instrument
power station or an electric light.
Now sounds are blurred into a complex loud
hum to which we are inured. On Sunday
nights, from city noise, there is no reprieve                           did you wake me, discover I was deaf?

Lisa Kelly

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