By Benjamin Voigt
and the White Pages, to the Switchboard,
Rotary Dials and Dial Tone. To the
Answering Machine, to Not Being Home
to Pick Up the Phone, to Being Afraid
of Being Found Out You Were Home
Alone. To “Voigts’ Residence,” and
“Can I Take a Message?” To Forgetting
to Tell Mom Someone Called. To Busy
Signals and Collect Calls and Call
Waiting. To Long Distance, and Listening In
On the Bedroom Cordless. To the Phone
Tree, Caller ID, and the Red Cross
Asking for Dad’s Blood Again. To the
Do-Not-Call List. To Hotlines,
Nine-Hundred Numbers, Star-Six-Nine,
the Pound Sign, the Operator. To Having
to Ask Your Girlfriend’s Parents If
She Could Talk. To My First Cell Phone,
and How It Didn’t Work the First Time
I Turned It On. To its Tiny Screen, and
the Animated Panda We Watched There
That Meant We Were Roaming
Even When We Were at Home.
To Dropped Calls, Low Bars, and Family Plans.
To the Call Mom Got On Our Way
to the Beach Telling Her That Her Mother
Was Gone. To the Quiet Afterwards
in Our Rental Car, Just Her Crying,
and How the Seaweed Lay in the Sand
Like Tangled Cords. To Numbers
No Longer in Service. To the Number
That Was My Grandparents’ for Decades,
The Last Four Digits Their Anniversary.
To Whoever Would Answer If I Dialed It Now.
To My Father, Who Will Go to His Grave
Never Owning a Cell. To My Mother’s
Voicemails About Christmas and My Sister
and Computer Problems, The Messages I Save
for When She Won’t Be There
to Answer, When They’ll Be All I Have Left
of Her Voice, The First I Ever Heard.
Benjamin Voigt grew up in upstate New York on a small farm and the internet. His poetry has appeared (or is forthcoming) in ZYZZYVA, Poetry Northwest, Fence, and Bennington Review. His poetry criticism has appeared in the Kenyon Review, Pleiades and on the Poetry Foundation’s website. His chapbook Postpastoral was the inaugural winner of the Poetry.onl Chapbook Fellowship. He lives in Minneapolis.
One thought on “Ode to the Yellow Pages”
I am awestruck. This is just how I remember it, and how I want it remembered: to all of it, the connection and the distance. I am sharing the link to this poem everywhere. Thank you for writing it, Benjamin Voigt.
And thank you for printing it, NOR! It’s the perfect thing to read on the Solstice, which is when everything both connects, and changes forever, and even the small things seem big.