for Jackson Pollack on the bar of the Cedar Tavern: the shot that got spilled after you'd taken several rounds, making the oak bar report your vigor each time with the glass emptied of its mayhem. Before the impulse could travel its course to spark your hand reaching again for the glass, Creeley's
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Epistemology of the Phone Booth
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.
Gregory Pardlo was born in Philadelphia in 1968. His first book, Totem, received the American Poetry Review/ Honickman Prize in 2007. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in American Poetry Review, Boston Review, Callaloo, Gulf Coast, Harvard Review, The Nation, Ploughshares, Tin House, and Best American Poetry 2010, as well as several anthologies, including Angles of Ascent, the Norton Anthology of Contemporary African American Poetry.