One Poem

John Estes


Family members have started calling, wondering where you've slid off to, off the grid, out from under the bill-paying rock the rest of us stay under. The agencies dropped to a few days a week awhile ago. Half the time it's just a computer, people being what they are. Sometimes the humans refuse to believe me: "Sorry, they don't have this number, anymore" or "No, I have no idea..." or ", really." But they press on. We remember not to imagine you living in this house, inhabiting these rooms, but are bound to you by these digits. I imagine you in Montana—scared, disheveled and smelling of feces like the Unabomber, in a shack with a long front porch. Less lonely but more bored and with a craven withdrawal from credit cards and catalogs, awake at night transfixed by coyotes and locusts but listening for copters. Please, next time you hitch to town for supplies, call Uncle Jim, tell him not to worry. Star-67 blocks caller ID. That way, next time one of you slides off the mattress at 3 a.m. and slips over to the hatch in the floor where you keep your treasures, when with a rising pulse you're scanning old receipts and itemized phone bills, feeling that old itch rise in the blood like a friend—and you see his name and number—the voice of your conscience will be clear, as if transmitting from the next room, as if there were any longer a next room.

John Estes

John Estes is a doctoral student and instructor at the University of Missouri-Columbia. Recent poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Circumference, Zoland Poetry, Ars Interpres, The Journal, Notre Dame Review, Literary Imagination and more. A chapbook, Breakfast with Blake at the Laocoön, is available from Finishing Line Press.You can visit him at his Web site.