Epistemology of the Phone Booth

Gregory Pardlo on

Published in Poem Of The Day

I found the scrap of City Paper
classified, the 1-900 number and photos
like candidates there, in love's voting machine.

Discomfort station. No pissoir. Hothouse maybe for
a fourteenth-year sprig: me. Light box
to slideshow the introvert
cloaked in a prepaid identity

discreet as a shirttail in the fly.
Ma Bell's shelter
was brutal & snug. I'd heard the ram's horn hum.
A hymn. Just like prayer I thought. No answer.
Clack'd the splendid tongue
and bloom!
Salutations rose like pollen, prepped me for
the inverse of police
sketch artists, the one who would evoke so I could render,
in my mind, the enigma of the wanted; one to source
the vacuum wrenching stutters like rivets

off my tongue.
Plink. Into the sewer of the mouthpiece.
Then the universal ballad of the waiting room.
Hold (me) music.
No orgone
closet. More like that other-lonely doom-the body
encapsulated, its inventory ever unknown. Dantean vestibule.
Anti-chat room.
When the genderless voice beyond
began to lavish I grew ears all over,
inner ears
swiveling from one tepid libretto to the next
tuning for some satin frequency the culture
promised until, I repent (forgive me father), the card went bust.

About This Poem
"Eve Sedgewick's 'Epistemology of the Closet' inspired me to look for another symbolic medium of sexual consciousness, and I found myself writing an allegory of awakening using the ancient vehicle of the phone booth. I see the kid in the poem as a kind of Baudelairean Quixote coursing electric distances in search of love." -Gregory Pardlo

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About Gregory Pardlo
Gregory Pardlo is the author of "Digest" (Four Way Books, 2014). He serves as visiting writer for the M.F.A. program at the College of St. Rose in Albany, N.Y.

The Academy of American Poets is a nonprofit, mission-driven organization, whose aim is to make poetry available to a wider audience. Email The Academy at poem-a-day[at]poets.org.

(c) 2014 Gregory Pardlo
Distributed by King Features Syndicate


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