“The cord” by Leanne O’Sullivan

I used to lie on the floor for hours after

school with the phone cradled between

my shoulder and my ear, a plate of cold

rice to my left, my school books to my right.

Twirling the cord between my fingers

I spoke to friends who recognized the

language of our realm. Throats and lungs

swollen, we talked into the heart of the night,

toying with the idea of hair dye and suicide,

about the boys who didn’t love us,

who we loved too much, the pang

of the nights. Each sentence was

new territory, like a door someone was

rushing into, the glass shattering

with delirium, with knowledge and fear.

My Mother never complained about the phone bill,

what it cost for her daughter to disappear

behind a door, watching the cord

stretching its muscle away from her.

Perhaps she thought it was the only way

she could reach me, sending me away

to speak in the underworld.

As long as I was speaking

she could put my ear to the tenuous earth

and allow me to listen, to decipher.

And these were the elements of my Mother,

the earthed wire, the burning cable,

as if she flowed into the room with

me to somehow say, Stay where I can reach you,

the dim room, the dark earth. Speak of this

and when you feel removed from it

I will pull the cord and take you

back towards me.

From Waiting for My Clothes, 2004

Bloodaxe Books(Copyright 2004 Leanne O’Sullivan.)

The poem has some extremely pretty visual images (I have italicized some of them for identification). So much has been built around a telephone cord. Throats and lungs swollen we talked into the heart of the night toying with the idea of hair-dye and suicide .A schoolgirl ‘s prattle goes out into the sea of darkness outside of her cozy home through the telephone cable reaching her friend some distance away, talking of hair-dye and suicide in the same breath. Each sentence was a new territory, opening up doors to newer realms of topics with knowledge and trepidation. Watching its cord stretching its muscle away from her is a highly visual-dynamic image of the coiled telephone cable and evokes the schoolgirl moving away from her mother’s influence trying to build her own world. As long as she was speaking, the mother could put her ear to the tenuous earth and allow her to decipher the world. These were the elements of my mother: the earthed wire, the burning cable, as if she flowed into the room with me to somehow say, stay where I can reach you, the dim room, the dark earth –beautiful visual images.

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