March 22, 2010

Kate Peper

DON’T YOU MISS THE PHONE BOOTH—

—a place where once you closed that hinged door
you could still look out, but now the outside world
was hushed and you were in a capsule of privacy?
The etchings of phone numbers, names and expletives
cheering you while you listened to the dial tone,
thinking, grandly, how connected you were
to those who came before you in this one booth.
And wasn’t it comforting, too, to feel the heft and solidity
of the phone book or rub the cigarette burns on that little corner table?
In old movies, people excused themselves in restaurants
to make a call and you, yourself, remember finding
the quiet corner near the restrooms, the pay phone
inside the cubicle just big enough for you to lean in.
How good you were at not speaking loudly. How nice it was
for folks to stand back, waiting for the caller to finish and step away
before walking up and putting in the dime.
Oh, sure, back then it meant people couldn’t reach you 24/7,
photos snapped from your cell at a dinner party couldn’t be sent
to your loved ones in Zurich, or your pre-teen’s thumbs
couldn’t get the workout from texting, but hey—
wasn’t it swell to walk down a city street and the only
people you heard talking to themselves were crazy?
And driving away from the city, no pop song sound bites
rang in your pocket? And in the pouring rain, when you miss
your turn to So-and-So’s Cabins, the wipers going like mad,
you see a closed gas station and with relief—a sudden feeling of joy—
spot the shape of the booth with its panels lit,
the unmistakable sign of the phone on top, haloed in light,
offering you shelter and connection.

from Rattle #31, Summer 2009