shades of Linda Lee

Leslie Greentree

copyright ©2003, Leslie Greentree

my phone is haunted by another shadow
her name is Linda Lee
every day there are calls from collection agencies
Linda owes money everywhere and
has skipped town
leaving me with her details
her phone number that doesn’t spell anything

I feel a strange sneaking guilt when they call
as if I might really be Linda Lee
they might somehow prove it
the irrational blush of the good girl
accused of lying
who suddenly doubts her own truth

the second week I say things like
Linda’s a tour guide in the
Dominican Republic now
I don’t think she’s coming back

Linda left to work with Greenpeace
she disappeared last fall
a tragic dinghy accident they were
chained to a Russian whaler

these telephone voices remind me of
my ex-husband parental somehow
slightly disapproving but
too polite to accuse one of anything
to spell it all out

Notes on the Poem

Along with great, welcoming storytelling and wry character development, Leslie Greentree employs a simple touch in "shades of Linda Lee" that can get under your skin without you even really noticing it. The poem "shades of Linda Lee" has no punctuation. The poem's phrasing and line breaks offer a good sense of where one thought leaves off and another begins, but the absence of punctuation gives a subtle feeling of one sentence starting before the previous one has finished. The effect is of voices - on the telephone, in voice mail messages - fading in and out. Does this ever-so-slight sense of sentences not finishing mirror the narrator's own sense of uncertainty? She admits that she feels "a strange sneaking guilt", thinks maybe she is Linda Lee. Later, she confesses that she feels she's still being admonished by her ex-husband. "the good girl / accused of lying" ... does indeed go on to lie about Linda Lee's whereabouts and fate. Even if they're harmless lies to fend off calls for which she's not responsible, should the narrator indeed "doubt her own truth" after all? Does clarity and truth emerge when sentences are crisply punctuated? Conversely, are clarity and truth optional when one sentence slides into the next without delineation? Is the recipient of Linda Lee's messages avoiding what needs to be spelled out?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.