Answering The Phone

Stone, John

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Annotated by:
Woodcock, John
  • Date of entry: Jun-25-2004


In twenty-four short lines and colloquial diction, this poem movingly conveys the immense change that the deaths of several people close to the speaker have made in the simple act of answering the phone. "Used to / you'd say / Hello / and think nothing of it," the poem begins, but after the deaths "all that changed / and you think / now before you answer the phone / you take a deep breath . . ."


This simple, very accessible poem opens our eyes to the shift in worldview that can follow the serious illness or death of someone close. The telephone, in better times a carefree portal to a happy world, has become contaminated with the speaker's depressed expectations. Stone's choice of the everyday act of answering the phone marks this change poignantly.


Also published in Literature and Medicine 3: 129 (1985)

Primary Source

In All This Rain


Louisiana State Univ. Press

Place Published

Baton Rouge