“When Girls Called” by Sam Pierstorff

Sam Pierstorff


When I was in grade school and girls called,
my mother always managed to pick up the phone first.
She would ask, “Do you know my son is not supposed to talk to girls?”

Of course they didn’t know, even I didn’t know why,
except that my mom didn’t understand America yet
and I hated her until she did.

I can still hear my mother in her 4-foot olive frame
and Arabic accent embarrass me as she yells,
“Never call here again! My son does not want to talk to girls!”

By this time, I am cowering under the dining room table,
anticipating tomorrow’s blacktop gossip about a gay boy named Sam,
pretending that the phone never rang—that my mother
could not possibly be explaining the difference
between virgins and sluts to a young girl
who probably just wanted the math homework.

Then my mom shouts for me, wanting a reasonable explanation
for why girls had my number. I wanted to tell her
that it might have been my fuzzy brown hair,

my sensual bottom lip, or simply my 10-year-old impulse
to write my phone number down on the sweet-scented notes
of 5th grade girls who had friends who had friends
who had a friend who liked me,

though I was only able to hear my mom lecture me
about silly religion and temptation and how kisses
spread disease and French kissing made “the babies.”

But I was too young to care. All I wanted was
for Amy Ishmael to like me, because it tingled
and felt good when she said I was cute.

from Rattle #27, Summer 2007
Tribute to Slam Poetry

[download audio]


Sam Pierstorff: “There are a lot of hours in-between life and death, and after singing ‘A Whole World in Our Hands’ with my son at pre-school, then teaching a little grammar and poetry at the junior college, then tossing my one-year-old daughter around after school, then cooking Moroccan meatballs with my wife, there’s usually an hour left (after the kids are bathed and in bed) for T.V., a chapter in a novel, or a few clicks of the keyboard, which, with any luck, becomes a poem. I write to save a little bit of myself for myself. I like to laugh and mine the depths of my childhood and dust the monotony off the shelves of life. I write poems because I have to.”

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