Last week marked the ten-year anniversary of the tsunami that killed over 19,000 people in northeastern Japan. Stuart Gunter’s poem, The Wind Telephone, engages with one of the more poignant symbols of the disaster in the country: ‘I first heard the story of the wind telephone on This American Life. I could not imagine the terror and resulting pain of that experience, and thought the idea of being able to call the spirits by phone was worth exploring.’
The Wind Telephone
When 19,000 people swept out
to sea, a young man bought
an old phone booth and placed
it in his Japanese garden. How
do we stay connected to
the dead? How do we grieve?
We play piano and pray into
the night. We hear them in
the silence as a tear traces
a cheek and the crickets
and frogs send up their
racket to the moon. We might
say little, or nothing. Farmers
and fishermen calling wives,
mothers, daughters, sons, fathers,
the children and parents, all gone.
The dial tone is silent and the ringing
reaches up to the clouds: Hello, if
you’re out there, please listen to me.
Please, be okay. Please: be okay.
Without all of you, it’s meaningless.
Have a good trip. Good luck.
As if they could hear them
and would be home in time
This poem first appeared in the January 2018 Share This Poem section of Broad Street.
Stuart Gunter lives in Schuyler, Virginia and has been accepted into the MFA program at Virginia Commonwealth University. His poems are forthcoming or have been published in Poet Lore, Hiram Poetry Review, Appalachian Journal, James Dickey Review, Cold Mountain Review, and Plume, among others. Once Again to See the Stars: A Contemporary View of Dante’s Inferno, his collaboration with artist Michelle Gagliano, will be published in 2021.