Anne Pierson Wiese

I Keep Dialing

Let’s face it: dials are out of date. Now
we initiate change with buttons or
simulacra thereof—a spot we click
on a screen to conjure one thing or another.
I know it’s old hat, but I miss the in between
dials gave us, the way our fingers used to
learn a liquid touch, trying late at night
to get Chicago or New York or across-the-
border, somewhere far away from our transistor
radio sitting on a windowsill, antenna
adjusted this way and that, reception waxing
and waning with the shifting of the wind
so that the static matched the sifting
of the leaves in the trees outside. When you
have a dial, you have access to a space
that can always be divided in half,
the infinity approaching zero meaning
more degrees of difference than you’ll ever
need—it’s the knowing that they’re there—all
the little voices in the dark you might pull in
if you twist and turn just right. Patience
always pays when it comes to dials. I can
feel them yet—the ones on the front
of my mother’s Slattery gas stove circa
1949. It was still in the apartment when
we moved in, and she saved it for the burners,
old though it was and drafty for baking
cakes or roasting meats. They don’t make those
anymore—not for any money—the heavy black
dials with their honeyed spin, their play delicate
enough to make flames that leap up like woozy
pinnacles and melt back to their blue-ring
hearts as slowly as dusk: the setting of control
                                    that used to belong to us.


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