She called the front desk at Palm Beach Company
to ask Lydia, the switchboard operator,
if she could talk to her mommy.

Honey, we have so many mommies
here. To which mommy would you 
like to speak?

             Her name is Louise.  She’s my mommy.

One moment, please.
while I connect you
to your mommy.

It was a kindness with lasting effect,
clicked with metallic efficiency.
The child decided that’s what
she needed to be the little adult
everyone claimed she was.

When the electric oven caught fire
that summer, she knew not to throw
water on the flames. She latched to 
grown-up protocol, methods that led 
her to beat out fires with precision.

That switchboard operator had it down.
Both human and automaton, her voice
clicked insect cadence while hands
whirred plugs in and out of connections 
with samurai blur and sensei courtesy.

On a visit to her mommy’s work,
the pupil came to thank her mentor,
watched her juggle phone calls
for most of a Friday morning.

Long after, all callers to Myrtle-7-6307 
reached the operator for a modest
five-person concern:

Webster Residence.  How may
I direct your call?  One moment
please, while I connect you
to my mommy.