"I do claim that it is possible to construct an apparatus which will be so delicate that if there are personalities in another existence who wish to get in touch with us... this apparatus will at least give them
a better opportunity." - Thomas Edison (1920)
I place him in a private workshop, bent over the
latest prototype of his most astounding device,
skin coated in a sheen of oil and sweat, rust
coloured by the thin October sun. It is dusk.
The distant engine clatter has faded
into an easy, electric crackle of leaves,
the secret signals autumn evenings give.
Of course, he is waiting for nightfall.
This wizard of Menlo Park, who long ago
bound light to glass, caught Tennyson's rasp
in the eerie, cracked mirror of a phonograph,
now wants to build the dead a microphone -
lend voice again to Shakespeare, Sappho,
Aunt Martha, Jimmy in the trenches, tune in
to heaven's chatter. In this imaginary portrait
his fingers are taut, wiry conduits on the dials,
his combed hair slips a few grey antennae
in search of the right frequency for the afterlife.
That famous cliffed brow, the deep shadowy
pool of his gaze rendered in thick oil and acrylic,
takes aim out of canvas at the ethereal space
of our world. We know now that he failed,
passing silently into that unwired realm,
his apparatus missing. Still, he might have
kept it to tinker with. Even now he could be
looking for the right spot to use his cellphone.
Sending emails to whoever's watching:
"I'm here. We're fine. It works. Tom E."