I’ve decided I will never be a mother, but when friends tell me the good news of their pregnancies, I feel so incredibly happy and excited for them. Hiding under that happiness, though, is always a small part of me that feels sad to know priorities are changing and our friendship is changing along with them. The speaker in “Charles, Delete This Voicemail” by Nate Duke grapples with this sad acceptance.
The poem is honest. Confessional. The speaker admits to their friend they wish “I could turn you / back from a dad into the boys we swore / we’d stay [ . . . ]” and goes on to compare Charles’s daughter to a bear “grunting [ . . . ] outside the tent” she was conceived in. The comparison isn’t pretty. The confession isn’t a pretty thought. And that’s what makes it feel so real, so relatable to the thoughts we hold back from the people we love so we don’t hurt them with our ugly truths. The title brings everything together—a wish to take protect the loved one from those truths, to take it all back. “Charles, Delete This Voicemail” is an almost painfully honest (yet still fully enjoyable) read.
“Charles, Delete This Voicemail” by Nate Duke. Willow Springs, Fall 2021.