George Bilgere has published six collections of poetry, including Imperial (2014); The White Museum (2010), which was awarded the Autumn House Poetry Prize; Haywire (2006), which on the May Swenson Poetry Award; and The Good Kiss (2002), which was selected by Billy Collins to win the University of Akron Poetry Award. He has won numerous awards, including the Midland Authors Award and a Pushcart Prize. Bilgere has received grants from the Witter Bynner Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Fulbright Commission, and the Ohio Arts Council.
Bilgere’s poetry, while residing firmly in the every-day world of janitors, college students or siblings, is noted for its controlled poignancy and limpid free-verse line. Billy Collins has described him as “a welcome breath of fresh American air.” His poems have appeared in numerous anthologies and journals including Poetry, Ploughshares, the Kenyon Review, Fulcrum, and the Best American Poetry series.
A resident of Ohio, Bilgere lives in Cleveland, where he teaches creative writing at John Carroll University. (Poetry Foundation)
Ok. I am so NOT a cell phone person. Do I have one? Yeah, ’cause people think you’re weird these days if you don’t. But ask me how often I have it turned on when I’m out and about… (I’m VERY attached to my land line on which I can make long-distance calls for free!) And one of my BIGGEST pet peeves is having to sit in a restaurant or doctor’s office and listen to half-conversations on phones with the person talking at the top of their voice as if everyone in the room finds her/his (both equally guilty) life so damn fascinating!
In the Ridgeline Endoscopy Center, there’s a sign that says, “Please limit additional (I can’t remember the word used) to one per patient.” And below that it adds, “Please quiet your cell phones. If you need to make a call, step out into the hall.” This is a place that does colonoscopies, btw, and the waiting room is VERY small as they shuffle them through there at quite the pace!
Anyway…the last time I was in there an elderly lady was waiting her turn, her THREE grown daughters all sitting in a line beside her UNDER THE SIGN, all three on their cell phones. That is the most agitated I’ve ever been over a bloomin’ cell phone! AND may I add, I DESPISE texting! I am a face to face person, and I don’t need a mediator for my conversations! (Yes, I know I’m being judgmental… But come on now. Can’t they read?) So I TOTALLY get Bilgere’s poem! Do you? How do YOU feel about cell phones in public?
Perhaps, in a distant café,
four or five people are talking
with the four or five people
who are chatting on their cell phones this morning
in my favorite café.
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 café,
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.
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