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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, April 20, 2016.
About this Poem 

“Voicemail greetings are sort of a lost art because we mostly text now. My favorite greeting from a friend in college was, ‘blah, blah, blah, leave a message.’ In this poem, I hoped to evoke an actual apparatus in a bedroom making all its clatter to then be followed by something different than what a bill collector leaves.”
—Carmen Gimenez Smith

Default Message

I have thirty seconds to convince you
that when I’m not home, my verve is still,
online or if I’m sleeping when you call,
sheep are grazing on yesterday’s melodrama.
Does anybody know what the burning umbrella
really meant? Forget it. Tell me what you need.
Leave me a map. Leave me your net worth
for reference. Leave me more than you ever planned.
Frankly, I’m anxious your message will be a series
of blurs, that you’ll leave the endearing part out,
garble your confession: A misstep here, a domain there.
A ventriloquism. The phone is in the kitchen,
but I’ve lost my way. It must be hunting season.
I retract every last gesture for your same retraction.

Copyright © 2016 by Carmen Giménez Smith. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 20, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2016 by Carmen Giménez Smith. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 20, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.

Carmen Giménez Smith

Carmen Giménez Smith

Carmen Giménez-Smith is the author of Milk & Filth (University of Arizona Press, 2013).

by this poet

poem

I was light from the mouth from every part of me
I was of the earth or a scar in the earth rent through
the ruins of late civilization and bubbled from it and
became a saint’s reptilian spirit and I could taste
the wheat and coal and gold like a trinity of bounty
and I was vapor like a smog

2
poem
My siblings and I archive the blanks in my mother’s memory, 
diagnose her in text messages. And so it begins, I write although 

her disease had no true beginning, only a gradual peeling away 
until she was left a live wire of disquiet. We frame her illness 

as a conceptual resistance—She thinks, yet
poem
We make dogma out of letter writing: the apocryphal story 
of Lincoln who wrote angry letters he never sent. We wait for letters 
for days and days. Someone tells me I'll write you a letter
and I feel he's saying you're different than anyone else.
Distance's buzz gets louder and louder. It gets to