Personal note: I first heard this wonderfully clever poem about cell phone usage, as had probably many thousands of others, on Garrison Keillor's The Writer's Almanac, back in February 2009. I say "many thousands" because Bilgere says he's had more feedback about that poem than any other, as has Garrison Keillor; this is further born out by the way it is scattered all over the web, almost always in the context of The Writer's Almanac. I can still remember the stretch of road along which I was driving at the time, and my frantic attempts to grab a pencil and paper and write down the name of the poem and poet. Luckily it was an empty stretch of rural road -- it's ironic that I wasn't behaving much differently from someone texting on a cell phone.

I've recited this poem probably more than any other, partly because it is short, partly because of its Billy-Collins-esque whimsy, and partly because people universally seem to take great pleasure in being exposed to it -- even people who undoubtedly are at other times glued to their phones.

If you read Stephen King's Cell, you can't help but feel a bit different about cell phones. And if you read some of the more recent findings about cell-phone radiation, you realize that the speaker in the poem may not have to murder the lady at the next table -- she'll just do herself in.


Bridal Shower
George Bilgere

See also the printable, pocketable PDF
(back to Poetry)

Perhaps, in a distant cafè,
four or five people are talking
with the four or five people
who are chatting on their cell phones this morning
in my favorite cafè.

And perhaps someone there,
someone like me, is watching them as they frown,
or smile, or shrug
at their invisible friends or lovers,
jabbing the air for emphasis.

And, like me, he misses the old days,
when talking to yourself
meant you were crazy,
back when being crazy was a big deal,
not just an acronym
or something you could take a pill for.

I liked it
when people who were talking to themselves
might actually have been talking to God
or an angel.
You respected people like that.

You didn't want to kill them,
as I want to kill the woman at the next table
with the little blue light on her ear
who has been telling the emptiness in front of her
about her daughter's bridal shower
in astonishing detail
for the past thirty minutes.

O person like me,
phoneless in your distant cafè,
I wish we could meet to discuss this,
and perhaps you would help me
murder this woman on her cell phone,

after which we could have a cup of coffee,
maybe a bagel, and talk to each other,
face to face.