THE PAYPHONE by Joy Priest

/ / Issue 14

Disappeared from the landscape.
Slick & black in the Tangerine Diner
Where I stood to speak into the handpiece
Greasy with other people’s oil & spit.

Gone that day’s newspaper, boot-printed,
The dog walking itself leash-in-mouth
Down the small avenue, the bookstore
Where I felt the train rumble past

On the other side of the wall. Gone
Those old men I watched smoke at their stools
& the bloodsucking bug I smeared in sweat
Until it was only blood. I am obsessed with

What’s phantom: the younger self;
The angry & agile body, starved & able
To consume indiscriminately;
The gently-pumping vein.

The operator had everyone’s number
At her fingertips back then. Who remembers
The sensation of the rotary dial whirring
Backward? Who of us keeps the record

Now? Outside of the gardens the smartphone
Missed my back pocket, smacked
The ground. Gone its face, diamonded
Into uselessness. No way to get ahold of

A way home. I hummed along while I waited
Across from the jukebox, in the booth
Ripped from its button, scratching
The back of my thigh. Gone the wild weeds

                        & Honeysuckle air
                        That made me. The coin slipped
                        Into its dark slot.