SUMMONS by Jess Smith

/ / Issue 13, Uncategorized

I used to call boys
              after my parents
passed out,
            my lethal friend Meredith
daring me
            to phone Patrick or Michael
and ask what they were wearing.
            One boy, Joey,
played piano
            for me, for hours,
while I lay with the phone tucked
            like a pillow
against my red-hot ear.
            I called my mother from college
nightly to try and detect
            how drunk she might be,
whether or not she loved me
            more from longing.
One blizzard, she let me
            watch When a Stranger Calls, the sick
moment when the police at last
            call Carol Kane back,
cry the call is coming
from inside the house.
Ted Kennedy called
            Mary Jo Kopechne
baby and sugar lips, likely
            the same names he used
on his wife because
            bad love is always
lazy. That night,
            the police stayed         
uncalled. I’ve called
            the police
twice: once when I saw
            a drunk I thought was dead
on 14th Street, once from the floor
            of a seaside B&B
after you’d held your boot
            so hard against my throat the tread
left behind its diamonds. The cops
            could’ve dusted my neck
like dirt. When you
            called me from
the seaside jail, you said baby
they’re recording us
which I much later understood
            as a plea
not to incriminate you further.
            I can’t remember
what I did say
            instead, I can’t remember
how I responded
            when either dispatcher
asked flatly what
is your emergency. On TV,
in these recordings,
            the caller is always
upset. When Watson
            answered the first phone call,
Bell didn’t celebrate,
            instead he beckoned
his friend, said come here I need you.