Telephone Girls

Girls have always been joined to telephone systems.
Not just teenage gossips or nineteen-forties girls
in whale-fat lipstick, scalps smelling
of chemical burns for days after each perm,
girls plugged into circuit boards, primed for scandal,
heavy bakelite ear cones and mouthpieces rising
like snakes’ heads up from their breasts;
that’s not what I mean.
I mean anchorites – telephones to God.

They chose to be built into church walls:
Dame Julian of Norwich,
Emma of All Saints, North Street, York;
the masonry rising like a slow upward guillotine.
The simple engineers would leave a slot
to admit a parcel of light and air,
food and requested prayers.

They believed that in this pure removal
they’d become a prayer machine.
That each day of silence would be another stitch
sewing their lips and ears into the robes of God,
until their tears would fall directly in his lap.

From The English Summer. Reproduced with kind permission of Penned in the Margins.

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