FLORENCE SAGE

My phone keeps playing
the jazz riff I’ve programmed in.
I go from room to room
for a quiet place to take the call.
I know who it is. We’ll want to be private.

My mother calls out: Steak done in kitchen!
I like the way she talks in headlines.

They come pouring out
of every door into the hall,
people I understand I’m supposed to miss
and don’t, and I owe them something better.
Maybe this nice steak dinner will do it,
and they’ll rest easier in my head,
that’s my logic.

My Mom, so clever, so kind,
I’ve brought this upon her
and she’s stepped up again.

I hope the steak is big.
I hope she can afford this largesse.
I picture a giant square-pan sizzling hunk
like a pizza of meat with only S & P,
barely fitting her oven, straining her arms.

Her announcement should empty the rooms.
My people like to eat.
I’ve clearly said I have to take this call alone
that’s waiting in my hand,
but the man I find in the den starts to talk
about himself, his favorite monologue.

I turn my back to him and say hello.
It’s me, says the phone. I know.
The pause stretches out.
The man behind me drones past the silence
on the line. Why make a call and not talk?

The man in my ear doesn’t want to tell me
he’s halfway to Seattle
instead of coming here as planned.
My belly goes into a familiar drop.

If I write this up I might find a lesson.
My fingers are throbbing to do it,
like a contractor’s thick yellow pencils
lined up, ready to write
and sharpened with a knife.

He thinks the call makes him a better man
instead of simply disappearing. Conscience,
reputation, caring, one of those, but so what.

Hurry up and tell me
what you want to say
or hang the hell up.

Sorry but, the steak is getting cold
in my mother’s kitchen and eaten up.
And anyone can tell from the crowded house
I don’t intend to miss him anyway.

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