brenda hillman | phone booth

3 12 2007


Poetry Dispatch No.160 | March 19, 2007

As the culture and the landscape change before our eyes, relics of the past occasionally appear in the mental mist, grounding us in the memory of other times, different ways…the people we used to be. Everything old…gone? Better before? Everything old, new again? High-tech cutting our cords, casting us adrift in a wireless world, standing and sitting around almost anywhere, with our hands to our ears…”Can you hear me?”

Here’s to the stationary romance of the old phone booth. Norbert Blei


Phone Booth by Brenda Hillman

There should be more nouns
For objects put to sleep
Against their will
The “booth” for instance
With coiled hidden wires
Lidded chrome drawers
Tipping up like lizards’ eyes
We looked out into rhymed rain
We heard varying vowels
Rimbaud’s vowels with colors
Orange or blue bleeps
Types of ancient punctuation
The interpunct between words
A call became twenty-five cents
Times in a marriage we were there
To complain or flirt
A few decades and we wised up
Got used to the shadow
The phone booth as reliquary
An arm could rest
On the triangular shelf
A briefcase between the feet
A pen poked into acoustic holes
While we gathered our action/wits
For magic and pain
The destiny twins
Some of us scratched pale glyphs
Onto the glass door while talking
One day we started to race past
And others started racing
Holding phones to their ears
Holding a personal string
To their lips
If there are overages
There might be nouns for
The clotting of numbers in the sky
So thick the stars can’t shine through
A word for backing away
From those who shout to their strings
In the airport while eating
We loved the half-booths
Could cup one hand on the mouthpiece
Lean two-thirds out to talk to a friend
Sitting in the lobby
The universe grows
We are dizzy as mercury
We are solitudes aided by awe
Let us mourn secrets told to
Fake wood and the trapezoidal seat
Perfume in the mouthpiece
Like a little Grecian sash
Why did we live so fast
The booth hid our ankles
We twisted the rigid cord
As we spoke
It made a kind of whorl

from The New Yorker, March 5, 2007




One response

9 05 2009
Judith Geduldig

Hello…are you the St. Mary’s College prof married to former U.S. Poet Laureate, Robert Haas? If so, I just read aloud your “Styrofoam” poem. I teach a “Theory of Knowledge” class in my high school’s International Baccalaureate program. This poem left us all puzzled and asking the question: what IS poetry?

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