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Elegy as a Message Left on an Answering Machine

Steven Heighton
From:   Ecstasy of Sketpics. House of Anansi Press, 1994.

Hello, you've reached 542-0306. I'm unable to answer
the phone just now, but just leave a message after the beep
and I'll be sure to return your call
     Goodbye for now.


Won't bother waiting up for you
to get back to me on this one. Waste of time.
My dime
in a bar by the water, your factory-new

answering machine is — like anything bereaved — still
full of your words, the waves
of your voice, the nervous laugh that gave us,
sometimes, "cause" to laugh. And which we now miss. Well,

human nature. I say Fuck my own. I own
up: this stinks. Too late
to erase all the crap, a watergate
of gossip, off-hand words, no time to phone—

in those last minute changes, additions, to say
what we find it so impossible to say —
I find. So cut all this can't
come to the phone right now cant, I don't

buy it, I figure you're in there somewhere, still
screening your calls, you
secretive bastard, pick up the phone right now if you
would hear a friend. Don't stall,

don't, like me. Thinking
there's time, there's still time enough, or rather
not thinking enough. Now look, I'm not sure whether
the executors will be disconnecting

you — your line — tomorrow (nurses, almost, pulling closed
the green curtain & tearing
out of your torso the drips & plugs & electrodes
to leave you drifting

with that astronaut in the film
who squirms awhile, signals some last, frantic word
then spins away into the void) —
that's why I'm here. Sky's clear tonight, by the way, calm

the wind, the water. Not sure really
why I called —
gesture of a drunk old
friend and ally.

Anyway, it was pretty good
for a second or two, to
get through,


Steven Heighton's works copyright © to the author.

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