Telephone Repairman by Joseph Millar

All morning in the February light
he has been mending cable,
splicing the pairs of wires together
according to their colors,
white-blue to white-blue
violet-slate to violet-slate,
in the warehouse attic by the river.

When he is finished
the messages will flow along the line:
thank you for the gift,
please come to the baptism,
the bill is now past due
voices that flicker and gleam back and forth
across the tracer-colored wires.

We live so much of our lives
without telling anyone,
going out before dawn,
working all day by ourselves,
shaking our heads in silence
at the news on the radio.
He thinks of the many signals
flying in the air around him
the syllables fluttering,
saying please love me,
from continent to continent
over the curve of the earth.

Telephone Repairman

What draws me to this poem is the literally hands-on, personal touch in this present-day wireless world. Though I do still see telephone repairmen from time to time, mending cable…in the February light, they are less common now, another sign of our changing world, even with increasing and instantaneous communications.

The poet tells us some of the words that will be carried along those cables – thank you for the gift, / please come to the baptism, / the bill is now past due. These are the simple, essential messages we exchange in our daily interactions, voices that flicker and gleam back and forth. I envision theses voices in a graceful dance within the wires.

When he says We live so much of our lives / without telling anyone, I am conscious of our current isolation, the lack of ordinary, daily exchanges we used to make, the silences we carry. And I’m touched by the notion of the many signals / flying in the air around him as he continues to work his repairs. Then this man reflects so eloquently on the syllables fluttering,(love that!) saying please love me. Isn’t that what we are all longing for, to be loved, whether we speak it aloud or not? What might you hear fluttering in the telephone wires above you today if you listen closely?

16 thoughts on “Telephone Repairman by Joseph Millar

  1. Thank you Jan. I look forward to these poems – no wonder – your passion for the words shines and you, the poet..”.I envision theses voices in a graceful dance within the wires” – your words about other poets words.. so lovely. namaste xo


  2. This is beautiful Jan. Voices dancing in the wires reminded me of the party lines we used to have and many listening in to the voices dancing in the lines. Don’t know where that came from but it made me laugh remembering. xoxo


  3. I love this poem, dear Janice. Reminds me of Marge Piercy who also writes about those workers who go unnoticed. This poem is new to me and is now in my list of favourites. Thank you so much for your treasure hunting and then sharing all that gold with us. Loads of love, Trudy


  4. Beautiful poem. Well chosen as usual. So relevant to present situation for many people. In Australia we don’t need to be reminded about interrupted communication thanks to the oligarch Mark Zuckerberg. By the stroke of a keyboard he stopped so many groups, organisations & individuals from sharing communication. He shut down government departments like Health (when we were starting to roll out vaccines); Fire Service (when 2 states faced “catastrophic fire risk); but he also shut down 1800RESPECT (Domestic violence hot line) as well as Indigenous health group hotlines(where localised health care is offered); reporting abuse for children hot lines & even community organisations like Country Women; sporting clubs; dancing groups; mother groups & local councils. + Individually, we cannot share photographs; art& art reviews; poetry & poetry reviews; literary reviews or even from sites like this!. I had to copy & paste – acknowledged you & site but cannot include http because FB puts up a sign saying it is banned. How swiftly Zuckerberg acted to punish us, yet they cannot manage to take down sexist; racist or offensive sites after years of reporting! He pays only 2.6% tax in Australia & earns $51.8 million here. Our government has asked him to contribute to journalists who write content that is shared on his platform. That labour and their skills brings revenue to his site via traffic which he sells to advertisers. To pay under the new law will be less than a rounding error on the FB accounting books. So SUPER THANK YOU Janice!


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