Posts Tagged ‘telephone’


Seizure: being grabbed and tossed to the ground.  In an instant, I became a bucking horse, forgiven everything except this moment. In exchange for a mouthful of blackened bacon sweating grease, here is a chaser of carpet and the hail of a table’s debris.  It is unusual, to say the least, to awaken face down on a  carpet, having been mounted by electrical shocks and rendered, pardon me, dumb and empty and useless.  A man with a need for sugar and grease is of no use to anyone except the doctor or the mortician.  My morning trip to Farmer’s market cost me a leg on the coffee table that my legs violent thrashing kicked off.  The table showered me with a coffee mug, an ashtray, my laptop, half bottle of lemon water, a nail file.  The tremors stopped even as my head continued spinning and I got up off the floor disoriented like I’d had a years’ worth of sleep in a handful of seconds.  I surveyed my body from head to toe — what the hell am I doing here / what exactly just happened.  I got up from the floor, surprised by the sudden newness of everything.  I took aspirin, then unplugged the power strip from the wall seeing how the desk lamp had broken its neck and all bottles of liquid had spilled into a wet outline haloed around me.  After dropping the aspirin, I needed to lay down again immediately.  I couldn’t make the couch and chose the closest floor.  Have you ever been confused by your own body?  I was confused by more than that.  I looked across the terrain of the carpet.  The broken table, the broken lamp, the scattered ephemera  and the dumb luck of not electrocuting myself, at least.

And then, I looked up at the silent black phone.  Perhaps you would have called any number of friends or family or even an ambulance.  I had no friends or family and the ambulance was a rubber banded roll of money chocked deep down in my throat I couldn’t get up.  In truth, there is a hospital four blocks from my building… but, but, but.  I looked at my phone, useful to me now as a toaster might be, and felt deeply sad.  Right then, I felt sorry for myself.  And I thought back to earlier that morning when I’d gone to the farmer’s market where I bought eggs and the aforementioned bacon which probably led to this absurd afternoons non-delight.  Smirk now as I tell you I walked past a man shoving kale and arugula into a plastic bag and kept walking.  I walked past another man standing in the middle of the flowing wave of shoppers.  He was speaking so loudly into his cell phone it seemed like a performance.  I thought I recognized him … and did.  He is my biological brother.  And as if this might explain anything, I walked past him while he stood blindly screaming: “What?? Should I give up my freedom to do what I…” and I walked past him, unnoticed and stopped listening after losing count of all the “I’s” shoved into his sentence.  He never saw me, unable to see anything except his own issues.  How to say: we are better as strangers than brothers?  More familiar to one another in thought than face to face.  As I walked past, I realized there were no memories I wanted to volley back and forth.  There was nothing I wanted to catch up with.  We emerged from the same biological muck, brothers in the dictionary yet strangers and useless otherwise.  He had sons, a daughter, an ex-wife, plenty.  He wasn’t adopted.  He was wanted.  Somehow it was just me who didn’t match the set.  It was me to whom my “birth mother” said, “lets agree to disagree”, before handing me off like a casserole.  I walked past him and bought cookies at a booth two tables down.  I preferred sugar and the kind smile of a stranger vending baked goods and fresh pasta.

I didn’t think of my biological brother again until later that afternoon when I found myself on the floor, table broken, dishes scattered across the floor in an awful tableau.   From my vantage point, I couldn’t think of a single name to call.  The only thing I thought of was him shouting into his phone and with that, my body flattened against the rug.  Depending upon him, I’d be good as dead.  The spilled items agitated me.  I pushed myself up, stumbled to the couch and waited.  I lay on my back and listened to my body.  Adrenaline is gasoline burning clean beneath my topsoil of skin.  My heart thumped even down to my fingertips.  I was glad to feel anything.  I spoke to myself, not a prayer, but how you’d test a microphone, and I sounded okay.  I flexed my toes.  Whenever a wave of thought whitecapped I breathed slowly until it smoothed out.  I watched the adrenaline burn and turn from red to orange to blue and then ease.  The day outside was so pretty and so bright and so useless.  I reached for my phone to make a doctor’s appointment then realized the next open slot was more than a week later.  Once I could move comfortably, I called medical services to expedite my appointment.  The woman-operator on the phone cheerily asked What Was Wrong.  I didn’t want to talk to her, I wanted to speak with my doctor.  She asked: It isn’t sexual is it? I used the word Seizure then the word Stroke and then a nurse was connected on the line and quietly urged me to call emergency.  Turns out there is a hospital but four blocks from my front door.  She talked me down from even trying to walk it, alone, especially before knowing what was wrong or whether it would happen again.  She said my appointment couldn’t be changed.  I hung up the phone and stared at the wall, breathing.

Hold The Phone

Posted: August 21, 2013 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

rotary phone

Hold the Phone – Jcagney


There used to be one in every house
with its own end table or altar.

ours was a wire stand crammed
with phone books– the first internet.

if you remembered to clean it

you’d wipe it down like a baby –
its umbilical cord would braid itself
over all the stories & lies transmitted—

You’d have to stand on a chair

to let the long cord unkink

; the handset

a satellite spinning weightless
above the rug.

you could slow dial
if you didn’t want to talk
but had to.  you’d
listen to its metallic purr

watch the plastic wheel rotate

and as it rang
wondered what the house

or room

on the other end looked like.

ours would scream in the empty
living room and you’d run to it.
tell it from the kitchen

you were coming,
even as your footfalls

shook the plates on the wall.


momma could tell who was on the line
just by hearing it ring.
She’d say: Jesus!
before picking it up–
not because it was Him calling–
but rather she knew she was going to need Him
before she hung up.

Grandpa would call every day
& hold the phone.
You’d stand there and listen to him
breathe for a while.
You had to wait– even if you knew what he wanted

And what he wanted was

nothing.  Just nothing.

Where yo momma, he’d finally say
His mouth full of toothless m’s.
Momma would lean back on the couch,
his voice in her ear
and they’d exchange breaths for the longest time.

She’d sit like that for a while


her fingers turning solitaire tarot

on the coffee table.
Sometimes she’d be leaned back

on the couch and  I’d put my ear to her stomach
listening to what was going on in there

until she had to get up
and do this or finish that.

Call waiting used to be called Patience.

You let the phone ring & if no one picked up
you called right back, let it ring some more

Call forwarding was when someone would call
and it wasn’t for you.

You’d have to go to the yard
where she squatted over tomato plants
or you’d hang out the window above the driveway
or shout through the bathroom door: Phone!

Long distance only happened Sunday nights–
You shouted over the width of states.

The callers voice so far away they sounded other worldly.

You had to talk quick & with purpose–
remember your report card and ask about the dog–
because time was money tumbling from someone’s palm.

In school, I could talk for hours about nothing.
Or prank call.  I talked with a girl once

While slowly pouring water

Out of a gallon pitcher into the toilet.

It took the longest time before she asked:

What are you doing?!?

Oh, just standing here, I’d say.

Obscene calls don’t happen any more.
I miss them.

One day

my father caught one
and said: Hold on for a minute

Then passed the phone

to Uncle Jerry who just drove in from


He took the phone, listened
for a good while, frowned, then started cussing
till black flies tumbled from his mouth.

That was when hanging up on someone really meant something.




The photo appearing with this poem was taken two days ago.  It has a ring tone.

Reading it aloud, I like the poems tone, even as it annoys me for being so informal and folksy.   A workshop could make this more muscular.  To me, the line breaks are aligned to the poems speed.  It demands to be read with your hands in your pockets, thinking.