Nearly all the names and numbers
in her leatherette phone book
are crossed or scribbled out.
One of these days I’ll dial
a dead number, wait and listen.
There will come a voice
cracked as a dry clarinet reed.
They remember me as a boy
and ask how school’s going.
When I tell them I’m now a man
they twig and hang up
on my cruel prank.
About this poem
This poem was included in Best Scottish Poems 2014. Best Scottish Poems is an online publication, consisting of 20 poems chosen by a different editor each year, with comments by the editor and poets. It provides a personal overview of a year of Scottish poetry. The editor in 2014 was Roderick Watson.
'Cold Caller' began as a poem when I started to take note of old phone numbers I kept finding that were often a few digits too short. Twinned with this was the memory of my grandparents' phone-book and how certain numbers would be scribbled out when a person died. I also recall that my grandfather particularly disliked being cold-called and all of these ideas inform the poem.