In Britain when you make a phone call and hesitate before dialling a recorded voice comes on and says, 'Please hang up and try again.'

The Excuse


Please hang up… I try again
“My father’s sudden death has shocked us all”
Even me, and I’ve just made it up,
Like the puncture, the cheque in the post,
Or my realistic cough. As I’m believed,
I’m off the hook. But something snags and holds.

My people were magicians. Home from school,
I followed a wire beneath the table to
A doorbell. I rang it. My father looked up.

Son, when your uncle gets me on the phone
He won’t let go. I had to rig up something.

Midnight. I pick up and there’s no one there,
No one, invoked, beyond that drone. But if
I had to rig up something, and I do,
Let my excuse be this, and this is true:
I fear for him and grieve him more than any,
This most deceiving and deceived of men…
Please hang up and try again.

from Conjure (Picador, 2000), copyright © Michael Donaghy 2000, used by permission of the author and Macmillan Publishers.

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