The Pay Phone: A New Poem by Joshua Mehigan | Arts & Culture | Smithsonian
Current Issue
October 2014 magazine cover
Subscribe

Save 81% off the newsstand price!

The Pay Phone: A New Poem by Joshua Mehigan

A new poem by Joshua Mehigan

Smithsonian Magazine | Subscribe

1982

A pay phone is ringing. It is twelve fifteen,
a balmy summer weeknight, no one around.
The ringing is both urgent and routine.
Loud, sharp, and even, it is the only sound.

It reaches to the fountain and marigold bed,
and down the dress-shop alley, and back again,
up past the darkened windows overhead,
past the green turret, past the finial. Then

the phone stops ringing. The air continues to ring.
When it, too, stops, the calm feels tentative.
But soon it’s strong—too strong. It’s sickening.
This is no place for human beings to live.

Then, once again, the pay phone starts to ring.
It will go right on ringing. No one at all
will hear this sound. No one is listening.
But someone must have some interest in this call.

The phone rings with enough force to be heard
two hundred miles and thirty years away.
And who is the caller? A mad lover spurred
by a broken promise? A client allowed to stray

from bed at Willing Helpers? Could it be
a desperate spouse, out to arrange a hit?
Or is it a wrong number? No. It’s me,
at thirteen. Oh, how I wish I could answer it.

Tags

Comment on this Story

comments powered by Disqus