Friday Poem – ‘Off the Hook’ by Carol Rumens


This week’s Friday Poem is ‘Off the Hook’ by Carol Rumens from her collection De Chirico’s Threads, chosen by our new poetry editors Rhian Edwards and Zoë Brigley.

This cover shows a colourful painting  of two abstract figures by Georges De Chirico

De Chirico’s Threads by Carol Rumens features an unusual centre-piece, a verse-play, fizzing with ideas and surrealist imagery, based on the life and work of the Italian painter Georges De Chirico, as well as distinctive and beautifully crafted individual poems by one of the UK’s best poets.

Off the Hook
For Isabella
In those complicated days, only the rich
Had ‘phones. The rest of us queued
To get into a tall red box: its windows were sticky
And it smelt of damp concrete and cigarette-smoke.
The telephone didn’t look friendly,
Shiny-black on its ledge, a bakelite toad.
You’d pick the hand-set up, and hate the purr,
That rumble of hunger unappeasable.
You counted out heavy pennies, pushed Button A.
Fingered the wheel around and let it re-roll
- Three letters, four numbers. You wanted to run
When the paired rings resounded. How hopeless you were!
You stabbed Button B, and thought you might die.
The money clanked through loudly:
Your voice came out super-polite, as it did in ‘Phone Land,
Leaving your mind quite dead behind one ear,
Telling him you couldn’t come to the party,
You had too much homework. A complete lie.
Some live with their mobiles snug to their lips,
Or melting against their cheeks.
They belong to a different race. They sound so happy.
I bury mine, and panic at its warble.
And only in deepest love would I make a call
And not be relieved when I heard the ‘engaged’ beeps.
But when it’s your voice, Isabella, saying hello,
So brave and clear, with nothing at all phoney
(Ahem) in your yes and no, I see why it’s good
To talk. I wish you a lifetime of easy phoning.
Be mobile-merry, and never mind the bills
Or curse the bells. I’ll stick to e-mail, though.

De Chirico’s Threads is available on the Seren website: £8.99

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