“Oscar” by Mari Werner

Mari Werner


My answering machine received a call from a machine that said it had an important message for Oscar Rivera. It told my machine it should hang up if it wasn’t Oscar. My machine just sat there and kept recording. Didn’t seem to even consider hanging up. Then the calling machine said that by staying on the line my machine was confirming that it was Oscar Rivera. My machine still didn’t flinch.

Now I’m wondering if maybe it really is Oscar Rivera. I never asked it if it had a name or offered to give it one, but now I think of it, the name kind of suits it.

The calling machine seemed to think that Oscar Rivera owed it money though, and I’m pretty sure my answering machine doesn’t owe anyone any money. But then again, I have no idea what sort of life it may have led before I brought it into my home. The people I ordered it from said it was brand new, but how would I actually know if they were telling the truth.

But then I thought maybe it doesn’t really matter. So what if Oscar has a past? Don’t we all? I told it, “Oscar, don’t worry about it. You’re here, the past is past, and I wouldn’t even think about ratting you out. And besides, it’s nice to know your name.”

from Rattle #52, Summer 2016
Tribute to Angelenos


Mari Werner: “I came to the L.A. area in 1976 when I was 24. I wasn’t planning to stay, but I grew roots and did. I write poetry because of the way it can make a connection between one human and another. And because it helps me stay convinced there’s meaning in all this—or at least be able to laugh when there seems to be none.” (website)

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