Rotary Phones

Rotary Phones

I miss rotary phones.

Did you dial gently like

drawing a message in the sand,

or like tearing knots through hair with

hooked fingers?

I miss tugging the wrong digit and how it forced us

to start all over.

Put effort.

Be cautious when we drag.


I miss shuffling through a mental lattice of numbers,

curly wires snagging us close,

like a parent, it’s toddler, to keep us

from wandering

too far.


I miss the heart swallowing screech it made across the apartment,

launching into a stumbling run,

sometimes diving into it.

And it ensnared us like an octopus with

arms and mouth open wide.

Dared to miss it and welcome the mystery of,

“Who could it have been?”

Dare to take the chance of never knowing – forever?

I miss leaning into it’s cradle

with bated breath until the dull blip of a phone

being picked up registered relief,

and knowing that my reward in two seconds

was a voice.

“Thank God I caught you home.”

I miss the receiver’s breathless groan once a call had ended.

It’s different now

when someone says they’ll call because

they have my number.

Do you?

You can have something without ever truly knowing it.

Have you memorized my number?

Memorized me?


– Rachel R. Vasquez,  August 2017

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I miss the days when calling someone and catching them home was something that wasn’t taken for granted. Versus always having a cell for anyone to reach you at any time, via text or social media. I miss good old fashioned, plop yourself in a chair and have a conversation while you play with the curly wire in your fingers. When my mom used to punish me for misbehaving, she’d put a lock on the rotary phone so you couldn’t turn it and dial – funny now that I think about it. 🙂 It was easy for parents to restrict a kid’s contact with their friends at home back in the day. 😉


I feel like there’s more I can do with this poem, but moving on from this one for now.

Little Cousin

Little Cousin

My little cousin’s got the Brooklyn.

The kind from the underside of pinched Corona caps,

stoops littered with sunflower seeds,

and Beenie Man grating from a recorded cassette.


I have other cousins who were cured.

Left cemetery meetings amongst Kings and color initiated school holidays.

My aunt grew tired of sleeping away from the windows and cured her children the only way she knew how –



My little cousin though, he’s got it bad –

the Brooklyn.

The kind where no Jansport or Jordans were safe.

The kind where kids were offered Remy Red from paper bags out of cars blasting “infiltrate”.

We didn’t mean for him to get it, but it was like he was destined.


Lured by Wyckoff summer nights.

Enticed by windshields of Puerto Rican flags and “Rollin’ with the Clique” down Onderdonk.

He must’ve been seduced by starry names we wore on necks, fingers and belt buckles like voiceless shouts.


Maybe he caught it from someone else?

Foxy, Chino, or was it Willie?

Was his name Willie?

Willie who wore foundation two tints too light,

lookin’ like an unslept, unbrushed Tego Calderon,

who strutted up the block to talk about love and dick before I’d seen either?


Was it all the unready mothers raised by unready mothers,

then trying to raise sons like sacrificial lambs?

Like offerings to “outside”?


Was it that my little cousin heard?

Heard women talk about “the club” the same way some country folk must talk about “the city”?

“Better than being out here in the sticks. Why ain’t we at the club?” as if there was only the one?


Did my cousin see?

How shadowed men jittered in doorways across the street from the abandoned warehouse on Willoughby?

I remember his ear to ear grin as he told me he saw

me kiss the pothead I pined for from Stockholm,

the one with a topless fairy tattooed under his forearm.


I think he’d already showed symptoms of having it then,

but we had hoped he’d outgrow it.

Doesn’t really matter now

that he’s a grown man.


They say he’s got the Brooklyn terminal.

Here we are now, years too late,

trying to save him.

It’s up to the blood in his veins now.

If he’s not careful,


Brooklyn will kill him.


And we’ll continue after,

asking ourselves for the rest of our lives,

how we could’ve prevented it.


– Rachel R. Vasquez,  August 2017

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.


Got family on my mind. Also wondering if I can find a WordPress theme that respects a writer’s line breaks, indents and spaces…