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Elegy as a Message Left on an Answering Machine

Steven Heighton
From:   Ecstasy of Sketpics. House of Anansi Press, 1994.


Hello, you've reached 542-0306. I'm unable to answer
the phone just now, but just leave a message after the beep
and I'll be sure to return your call
     Goodbye for now.

     ______________

Won't bother waiting up for you
to get back to me on this one. Waste of time.
My dime
in a bar by the water, your factory-new

answering machine is — like anything bereaved — still
full of your words, the waves
of your voice, the nervous laugh that gave us,
sometimes, "cause" to laugh. And which we now miss. Well,

human nature. I say Fuck my own. I own
up: this stinks. Too late
to erase all the crap, a watergate
of gossip, off-hand words, no time to phone—

in those last minute changes, additions, to say
what we find it so impossible to say —
I find. So cut all this can't
come to the phone right now cant, I don't

buy it, I figure you're in there somewhere, still
screening your calls, you
secretive bastard, pick up the phone right now if you
would hear a friend. Don't stall,

don't, like me. Thinking
there's time, there's still time enough, or rather
not thinking enough. Now look, I'm not sure whether
the executors will be disconnecting

you — your line — tomorrow (nurses, almost, pulling closed
the green curtain & tearing
out of your torso the drips & plugs & electrodes
to leave you drifting

with that astronaut in the film
who squirms awhile, signals some last, frantic word
then spins away into the void) —
that's why I'm here. Sky's clear tonight, by the way, calm

the wind, the water. Not sure really
why I called —
gesture of a drunk old
friend and ally.

Anyway, it was pretty good
for a second or two, to
get through,
Tom,

goodbye.


Steven Heighton's works copyright © to the author.


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