Poetry | June 01, 2004

Featuring the following poems:

  • The Telemarketer Basically Enjoys Talking with Goldbarth, Though it Ends Too Soon for Her Preference
  • The Telemarketer Calls a Poet She’s Actually Heard Once on NPR to Talk to Him About Relief From the Burden of High-Interest
  • The Telemarketer Means to Call Baker About Erectile Dysfuntion but, in a Misdial, Winds Up With Simic
  • The Telemarketer Calls Basho About a Cure for the Winter Blues
  • After Calling Too Many Poets, the Telemarketer Gives Up
  • The Telemarketer’s Husband, Unemployed, Kills Time in a Cafe, Waiting to Pick Her Up


The Telemarketer Basically Enjoys Talking With Goldbarth, Though It Ends Too Soon for Her Preference

Is the man of the house at home?


I can’t believe you just said that, your throwback euphemism

drags up a past to lament and praise, supernova twice, bigness

a narcoleptic paradox running down the lice-ridden rungs of time-


-so you’re the man, er, the head of the household.


You could say that.


Excellent. I have some questions?


Is it excellent? Do you know what you’re saying? Or are you like

the loquacious cockatiel, your exuberance a feathered haste,

chit-chat scattershot like rejected millet flecking a shag carpet.

We discuss you, you know, over dinner, over grilled fish or

a burger flame-plump and greasy, while the moon, at once pale

and thick, opaque as sperm, like turned milk, looks nailed

to a frail horizon, and we complain, bitch about the everyday

invasions, grudge and shrug to admit some utility in the cubicled

greeting mills …


[This is easily the best call I’ve had all day.]


put up with coy asides and pomegranate

scatters of salesmanship, of salespersonship, of the multiple

mutations of commerce, while some of us raise the specter

of a forgotten conquistador whose arrival on palm-sotted shores

in 1570, rifle-pricked and steel-cowled, cowed the first native

he saw with a plea for water, for anything other than salt,

anything other than the lexicon of distance and its flat

horizons, and in effect exercised the great prerogative

of free markets, or free enterprise anyway, sans the lovely

parting gifts of affected tele-purchasing by simply getting

to the fucking point and asking, right out there, crackerjack

simple, for exactly the thing he wanted and nothing more.


Okay. We’re running a special on appliances.


Don’t need any. See ya.



The Telemarketer Calls a Poet She’s Actually Heard Once on NPR to Talk to Him About Relief From the Burden of High-Interest Credit Cards

Mr. Collins, I am calling today about an important opportunity for you to start paying down those

high- interest credit cards and get on the road to good credit.


I don’t have credit card debt. Thank you.


Now wait. I’ve read your poems,

of your affinity for wine

and bread’s pleasures, for candlesticks

and clutches of freesias, your taste for brocade,

your love of solid furniture, your likely

lingerie purchases.


You know, don’t you, not to take poems

as biography, right? You can’t just

strap them down and beat from them

the details of a poet’s life. You know

that, right?


So they say. But you also write

what you know, right? Clean out

your attic, describe and collect

what you find there?


That’s part of it.


Then isn’t it reasonable market

research to have a look at your work

and deduce you’ve had contact

with lots of stuff at one point?


Fair enough. You can assume my valise,

too, is tooled leather, my books gilt-edged

and leather as well, my dinners tidy opulences,

but if I told you, in a slight stutter, sotto

voce, that I now had just finished a Big Mac

and was preparing to watch Hannity and

Colmes, to ignore the trifling sky

and the corduroy hours of evening, would you

frown, want to tousle my hair, tell me I’m

being silly, ship me to bed? Or, are you

the moth drawn to this flame, the spoon

yearning to lie with the knife, the bureau

drawer yawning to be filled with folds

of colored socks and accidental change?


You have a point, there.


I usually do. I don’t care how many

condescending titters I hear.


Not from me you don’t.


No. True. Never from you.

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