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‘This is ZL4BY . . . ZL4BY on the air . . . ’ my father would say


Then there might be squeals
rising and falling in pitch
a long patch of silence
maybe a low animal noise like a cow
giving birth, or static so bad
I could hardly bear it


My father would turn the dial towards
the very centre of the pain, trawl
through it over and over and inside
there might be a man’s voice
clear as a bell


The man
might be the only person awake
in a town in Northern Saskatchewan


My father and the man
would exchange first names
report on each other’s signal strength
and say something about the weather
in each country. That seemed
to be enough


responding to a different urge
my father would just turn on his receiver
and listen


According to my father,
unacknowledged signals circled the earth
until someone received them properly


If my father heard one of these signals,
and he often used to – often – at the new moon,
and when low in spirits – all he had to do
was say the person’s call sign
and then say,


            ‘ZL4BY, receiving.’


That was enough.

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