38: Ode to the Pager

January 16, 2019 · 5:00
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Ode to the Pager

by Marcus Jackson

Your earliest versions
beeped like microwaves
or retreating trucks
or hospital monitors.
When cell phones cost
more than mortgages,
you clipped to our belt loops,
our pocket lips, our bookbag straps.
Fueled on Energizer alkaline,
your skinny screen delivered
numbers of souls
hankering for a word with us.
We’d bum someone’s
touch-tone, or clatter
a quarter into a payphone, ear
suctioned to greasy receiver.
If our lovers intercepted
forbidden pages while we slept,
we woke to find you
drown in toilet water,
your display blotted opaque,
your heart a cracked cask of ink.
With you, we missed parties,
managers curious
if we’d accept an extra shift,
younger sisters caught
in downpours across town,
parents who hadn’t heard
our inflections in too long,
anyone who poked buttons and hoped
we’d be somewhere heeding you—
rectangular messenger
abuzz as a matchbox of wasps.


“Ode to the Pager”, from NEIGHBORHOOD REGISTER by Marcus Jackson. Copyright © 2011 by Marcus Jackson. Used by permission of CavanKerry Press.