As It Is, By Dorianne Laux

The man I love hates technology, hates

that he’s forced to use it: telephones

and microfilm, air conditioning,

car radios and the occasional fax.


He wishes he lived in the old world,

sitting on a stump carving a clothespin

or a spoon. He wants to go back, slip

like lint into his great-great-grandfather’s

pocket, reborn as a pilgrim, a peasant,

a dirt farmer hoeing his uneven rows.

He walks when he can, through the hills

behind his house, his dogs panting beside him


like small steam engines. He’s delighted

by the sun’s slow and simple

descent, the complicated machinery

of his own body. I would have loved him


in any era, in any dark age; I would take him

into the twilight and unwind him, slide

my fingers through his hair and pull him

to his knees. As it is, this afternoon, late


in the twentieth century, I sit on a chair

in the kitchen with my keys in my lap, pressing

the black button on the answering machine

over and over, listening to his message,


his voice strung along the wires outside my window

where the birds balance themselves

and stare off into the trees, thinking

even in the farthest future, in the most


distant universe, I would have recognized

this voice, refracted, as it would be, like light

from some small, uncharted star.

From “Minutes of the Lead Pencil Club” edited by Bill Henderson


Reprinted from “What We Carry,” B.O.A. Editions, 1994.