Paul Guest


The phone is never for me except for when it is

and so most days I ignore its digital trill

before someone apologizes to the air

for dropping my blood on the floor,

could I please entrust one more vial

to their care.  Or it’s the synthetic coo

of a woman I almost believe

could consolidate my vertiginous debt

and more, dragging the vacuum

of my heart across the twin Alps of the fiscal

and the erotic.  But her voice ends

and standing here in the hall

I am amazed and frozen

by the deep drift of longing sweeping higher

than I was aware.  Until this

moment, I had bought many things

I had no need of:  the pogo-stick

rusting mercifully somewhere cool and dark,

its wheezing ascent grounded;

the ouija board that never whispered at all

of the distant dead; the iguana

whose tail grew black and necrotic

and hardly noticed the amputation

with a steak knife made of space-age materials.

And now I want whatever it is

she was hired to make me want—

I will spend more than I have

so that she will be programmed to return

to the Capistrano of my ears

like a helpless bird.  I will burn

dollar bills because it’s easier than pennies.

I will fall like Frank Bland fell,

unlucky in name and life,

into a vat of paint stripper

and fight for his life with mine

as we burn away.  To the world,

I will open my wallet like a cadaver is opened

and forgive what I’m owed.



“Minus” first appeared in Swink.