a poem by Sandra Conner
I read about the “phone poem” challenge on “The Music In It” — Adele Kenny’s poetry blog site — and I decided to see what I could come up with. As soon as I started thinking about the subject, I remembered reading the true story of a WWII sailor who had intended travelling to the midwest (while home on leave) to meet his girlfriend and propose marriage before he went back to duty. A blizzard kept him from making it across country, but through the kind ministrations of a romantic telephone operator (remember when we had real operators instead of computers?), he was able to convey his proposal and receive an answer. This poem is based on that unique love story.
LOVE ON THE LINE
He was on leave, New England way,
And running out of time,
Snowed in, he could not meet his love.
His only hope – a dime.
So in the pay-phone booth, he dialed
The zero. Faith was high.
He told his soulful story to
The operator, Vi.
He gave the number for his love,
St. Louis her address,
And Vi said, “There’s no promises,
But I will try my best.”
So, hanging on the line out east,
The sailor heaved a sigh
And waited with a pounding heart
Till he heard back from Vi.
“I have your party, sir,” she said,
Three minutes’ worth of time.
“Three minutes!” cried the sailor.
“That isn’t enough time!”
His darling’s voice broke through the wire,
Her voice so light and thrilled,
“What great surprise, your calling now!
I heard you’re snowed in, Bill.”
“Yes, dear, and now I can’t get there
Before my leave is through,
But there is something vital that
I have to say to you.
“You know I’ve loved you for a while;
And I have to know for sure — ”
But Vi broke in just then to say,
“We’ve lost connection, sir.”
“Oh, no!” he cried. “You’ve got to help!
I’m ready to propose!
I couldn’t go back overseas
Unless I’m sure she knows!”
“I’ll try again,” Vi said, but then
Back on the line, so sad,
“I can’t get you connected, sir;
The weather is so bad.
“But I can hear your party, sir,
And it seems she can hear me.
If you’d want me to relay your words,
I’d do so happily.”
He heaved a sigh, wiped tear from eye,
And drew deep breath somehow.
“All right,” he said. “It’ll have to do;
I need her answer now.
“Please say, ‘ I’m so in love with you
That before I go to sea,
I’m asking you to be my wife;
Please say you’ll marry me.'”
So Vi relayed the message sweet;
He waited in a stew
‘Till Vi came back online and said,
“She’d love to marry you!”
Now many years have come and gone,
The couple made their home,
And in every room the pride of place
Goes to the telephone.