DaguerreoTyped #10: Photo Prompt Ekphrastic Response

Amy Alexander responds to our monthly historical photo prompt with her poem, “Bell’s Girls.”


“Bell’s Girls”

Let their radiant tresses follow the filaments,
he said.
Let their voices,
like sirens,
replace those of the boys,
replace the jokes
and the cracking branches
that snarl and catch
on the wire,
Boston to Philly,
Philly to the spires of Manhattan.
Alexander Graham Bell,
for all his brilliance,
the cloned projects and their mutations,
moving as slow to success, seemingly,
as a succession of beasts, still had to run a business,
and women’s words
were comforting to the ears.
Since we were infants,
we turned to them in their singing,
their rules for living
lived
in our nerves,
sparking along the myelin and,
at inconvenient times,
overriding the urge to kill.
For ten dollars a month,
plus lunch,
Bell would buy a softer soul.
But first, a test:
Would her arms be long enough?
Could she sit with a book-straight spine
for twelve times sixty clock rotations?
But most important:
Could she be cut off from her sisters?

AMY ALEXANDER is a poet and writer living in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Her work has appeared in several journals, including Quarterly West, Cream City Review, and Louisiana Literature. She is an M.A. graduate of the University of Louisiana, where she was a finalist for the Poetry Foundation’s Ruth Lilly Poetry Fellowship and received an AWP Intro Journals Project Award for creative nonfiction. Her chapbook, Finding Betty Crocker, is available from Naissance Press.

Each month, Alternating Current Press presents an ekphrastic challenge for writers and lovers of history: We feature a different public domain historical photograph, and ask writers to respond to it. There is no wrong answer, and no set style guidelines. Poetry, prose, hybrid, fiction or non, experimental — Anything goes that has a history bent. All work is considered for our Charter Oak Award for Best Historical and for publication in our annual Footnote: A Literary Journal of History (only if selected), and the best responses will be published on The Coil the following month. Check out our homepage for your chance to participate in the March DaguerreoTyped historical ekphrastic challenge, and read all of the past archives here.