Electronic Epitaph

Hi! Sorry I can't pick up the phone now.
I'm dead.

If you are shocked and want more details
on my struggle with the avenging angel—
press 1 now.

If we have had sexual contact
in the past ten years and you want to be sure
that I really died of cancer—
I'd press 2. If I were you.

For pithy deathbed sayings,
including a stunning rendition of my death rattle
rising nobly over a Windham Hill soundtrack,
press 3. Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

For details on my upcoming cremation
and burial in a Campbell soup can
stay on the line and a mortician will assist you.

You who are calling to collect old debts
or initiate new friendships, what can I say?
I'm dead.

Or if you're that telemarketer
who keeps leaving cheerful messages
regarding what you call my "portfolio"—
maggots are up ten points, pal,
I'm dead.

Most alluring of my long-lost college sweethearts
I knew you'd phone me by and by
to say hi and whisper directions to your bed.
I'm sure you're still a knockout.
Sorry I missed your call.
No, I can't join you for a drink tonight,
I'm dead.

Teacher who assured me my poetry was nought
and urged me to write a book on Piers The Plowman,
the "C" version, that is, though "B" needed me too,
as did "A." Lauda, Laudλ,
I'm dead.

Like Dante, dead; like Villon, Rabelais, dead;
like Chaucer, Shakespeare, Joe G. Schmo,
and poor Wally Stevens, the insurance man
and Emperor of Ice Cream, dead.

For a brief biography, press 4 ...
to hear me read my poems, press 5 ...
to find out what the eternal silence is like, press 6 ...

7 … 8 … 9 …
for the images they said would flash before my mind
in the final moments, they were right, they did …
though why one's history should be burnt into the brain
even as memory fails
is an intriguing parting question.

And you whom I have injured …
you who are impatient to join me ...
you who like hapless Stevie Wonders
have called too late to say "I love you"
and wish you could return to the original menu

please press the star sign, now.



Poems by David Alpaugh:

A California Ad Man Celebrates His Art
The Young
The Man Who Loves Better Homes & Gardens
Hunger Artists
Impromptu Meeting in the Falklands
As We Watch McNeil-Lehrer
Electronic Epitaph

TIMES TEN: An Anthology of Northern California Poets