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
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.
closet. More like that other-lonely doom—the body
encapsulated, its inventory ever unknown. Dantean vestibule.
When the genderless voice beyond
began to lavish I grew ears all over,
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.
Copyright @ 2014 by Gregory Pardlo. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared on August 5, 2014.
“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.”