Michelle Kingdom © 2018

Michelle Kingdom © 2018

by Elizabeth Crowell

Can You take a moment to tell

us how we did?


I called because I didn’t want the channel
where men play poker all day long, 
on a lush, green velvet, mahogany-ringed table;
instead, I wanted the channel with the show
about children who befriend the supernatural
and ride their banana-seated bikes
through piney woods, their elbows jutted,
their heads lost in their sweatshirt hoods.

My voice was too unclear, perhaps too inward,
not your fault, of course,
that you had to transfer me to an actual person,
and that I did not remember my passcode,
nor for a moment, that Diane
who now lives in the mountain of Montana,
was the name of my best childhood friend,
though I have called her, with years between,
to hear her exact voice coming at me
like a ripped billboard on the road of memory.

You asked me the name of my first hairdresser,
and I knew that one, Rudolph,
with his ham-colored face, white hair, tonic breath,
pink fingers running through my light hair,
but I was distracted by the reflection
of mirror in 1970 from that salon in Montclair, NJ
with my child face and thick soft blonde curls,
exactly like the gray ones that grew in
after chemo last year, so I had to feel
a little rush of life and death,
and maybe that’s why you finally asked me
about my mother’s maiden name,
which she gave up but put in the middle
of my own name, as if she were
stuffing paper in a crack.

You did all right, but when you asked
if there was anything else you could help me with,
you might have heard through the no,
the longing in my voice for
the rest of my life, before and after this
and my relief that this call,
recorded for training purposes,
would echo in some human ear again.


Elizabeth Crowell graduated from Smith College and holds an MFA from Columbia University. Her work has been published most recently in the Tishman Review, Bellevue Literary Review, and the RavensPerch. A long-time high school and college writing teacher, she lives outside Boston with her wife and two children.