Kevin Sampsell

I tried calling you earlier today but your roommate answered and said you weren’t there. I wanted to read a poem to you on your voicemail. I asked her if I could call back and she could let it ring. So I called back and had the page opened and ready to read from but your roommate answered again. Oh, sorry, she said. Wait ten minutes and call back, she said. I’ll be gone then and I won’t be able to answer the phone.

So I waited fifteen minutes to be safe and called back. She answered again. You were supposed to call back in ten minutes, she said.

I thought you were leaving, I told her.

I did leave, she said. But now I’m back.

I told her that you’d you’d be home soon and I wanted to leave you a message to come home to. I told her to put the phone under a blanket or something. Go into the other room or something, I said.

Okay, give me a minute and I’ll go into the kitchen, she said. I gave her a minute and called back. It was ringing for a while. I had my poem ready but then I started worrying about the machine cutting me off somewhere in the middle of a line or stanza. On the seventh ring your roommate answered again.

What are you doing, I said, starting to lose my patience.

Sorry, she said. I forgot. Then she said, Look, why don’t I just take a message for her.

It’s a long message, I said.

That’s okay, she said.

Alright, I said, and I started reading the poem. It was two whole pages long. I heard your roommate on the other end giving me these little uh-huhs and other short-hand noises. The poem was butchered by the time it got to you. The line “Our mouths turned to flames in the cold parking lot” turned into “Kevin’s mouth feels hot in the Toyota,” and my reference to kissing you “One-hundred times in one night” was dumbed down to “making out.” Also, she put the words “lip balm” in parentheses.

I don’t think your roommate speaks our language.


Kevin Sampsell lives in Portland, Oregon. He is the publisher of the micro-press, Future Tense Books and the events coordinator for Powell’s Books. His work has recently appeared in Minima, Gut Cult, 5 Trope,, Surgery of Modern Warfare and the anthology, Short Fuse (Rattapallax Press). His chapbook, Etiquitte For Evil was a finalist for the Firecracker Award last year. His newest book is A Common Pornography.