It’s such a dumb thing small thing. Right? I’m on the phone faking this guy out. Maybe some regular. He can’t know that I pick toe jam out my toenails in this warehouse with maroon cubicles with soft grannies & few students in swivel chairs. He’s just one more dumb small dud buying. Not touching. Just phone fucking me from a BBQ. Okay. It’s June outside. “What’s cooking?” I ask hungry. “Halibut,” he laughs, “What’s cooking with you?” I look around at the stale air. I’ve been losing weight the wrong way lately—without money. On my way in on my bike I saw a crowd at the bus stop & maybe no food made me think they swayed over some lady flat on her back on the sidewalk. Her fat feet in beige pumps stuck out over the curb. “That food sounds good. You should get some,” I say picking fresh pimples & blotting puss with my sleeve. “Forget that,” he says & we chat about what we’d do but like kids do: “Let’s pretend you do this. & then I do that.” Okay. Sometimes it doesn’t work like when kids say, “You’re dead!” & you say, “No I’m not!” But who decides? & this is what I want to know when I start hearing the BBQ. Kids closing in. Kids fading like running around. I hear a woman’s question. “Flowers,” she says. There’s his muffling hand his slick whisper like a shrug or dad or door clicking. Then nothing. “Oooo-kaaaay,” he says like he’s my boyfriend’s pal Trey who tells everyone I call him—chat hot when I don’t. Would never. He’s all “Oooo-kaaaay” the way he wasn’t with Ms. Flowers. & I drop the receiver. Stop my desktop solitaire game. ‘Cause I’m sick & froze & there’s a kind of life behind his voice. & it’s touching me.




Click here to read Jennifer Jean on the writing of this poem:

Jennifer Jean:
Many of the vignette-style pieces in my series/manuscript on objectification and sex-trafficking turned out to be very prose-y (not my usual style which has always tended toward the lyric). And, I struggled to balance line-breaks (a tool enabling layered meaning and music) with providing information (always a problem with issue-based poems). Somehow, it never occurred to me to try the prose-poem form—until the Pangyrus editor suggested it. As radical as it felt at first, transforming this piece into a prose-poem turned out to be a fantastic move. The music of the un-lineated persona voice, as it turns out, is strong enough to hold the prose together. (In my understanding, music is key to a successful prose-poem.) Originally, in the lineated format, I’d excised all the commas to maintain musical speed in the speaker’s voice. In a prose-poem format it made less sense, so I re-instated several required commas. But then, that made me want to truncate the speaker’s sentences—so, I did that in a few places. I kept proper punctuation, however, in dialogue moments. I’m really grateful for this challenging suggestion—it's good for an artist to be shaken up! It promotes progression—as well as potent and compelling poetry. Because I’m seeking to expose and explore instances of objectification—an issue close to my heart—I want this poem in particular to be as potent and as compelling as possible. I want it to leave a mark.

Image: “Lonely Phone” by Sarah Laval, licensed under CC 2.0

Jennifer Jean
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