Death says to me: soon enough, he will call collect.
(Only pay phones in hell.) (No burners?)
But the phone companies killed all that years ago –
"Operator? Operator?" A bot buzzes in the receiver
like a dying fly.
My cell phone screen is cracked with jokes
and I don't recognize this grim reaper's smile
staring back at me from the lock widget –
gives new meaning
to saving face.
Saved by the bell, or ringtone. Sitting out on the deck –
listening to woodpeckers' hard words with bark beetles.
"I hear you knocking, but you can't come in."
I skipped Morse code in Boy Scouts
along with Lifesaving and Bugling
Which means I can't play taps for you, my friend –
only these fingerprints
on Gorilla glass, tracks in the sand
draining down the silicon hourglass.
If survival is eulogy enough, we are still here.
*”Death Calling Collect” – Don Tracy, 1976 (among other versions/sources)
April, early morning, birds have the microphone –
the squawk box in full dither – I scan up and down
the sundial sniffing for signal with my beak
as if some frequency of light and shadow on my face
will clear the static.
The Byrds – classic rock, no,
"First known use of 'chugalug' was in 1945" – talk radio, no,
A woodpecker's twhack knocks on my bones:
"Hey old man, I'm tawking to you!"
and each tap bends another creaking nail,
Filches in the bark of my tired muscles for grubs or honey
or whatever leaves me flightless and famished
in my walk down this dirt road every morning,
octets of birds and peepers a Met Opera
broadcasting Tosca on public radio,
Those strings of my father's Puccini and Verdi
lifted from vinyl and woven into nests that spiral outward,
my mother belting "Praise the lord, and pass the ammunition!"
waking us with her birdshot voice –
are those notes or holes in the sky?
Sun comes on the loudspeaker, it must be recess.
I hear you say "hey" and finally I'm here, present,
your hand, feathered in mine.
A quiet settles in.
I get the news.
The caller said your father had died.
We were sitting in a booth
at the Greek diner.
Who better than Greeks
to know Tragedy?
Our waiter is from Guatemala.
Maybe who better than
to know tragedy.
The restaurant is empty.
Who better than empty
to know loss.
His wife will burn him.
She can send the box
if anyone wants it.
If anyone wanted forgiveness,
I would tell you
a burnt heart
closes like a door
as the last customer
leaves for the night.
We pay the check
and leave a tip
in the jar.
After we are gone
the waiter will spread our coins