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Call centre

This poem is an automated response system.

To activate it, please slowly speak your name.

I'm sorry but your personality has not been recognised.

Please wait while I transfer you to one of our inoperatives.

Your call is extremely important to us.

Please take a moment to enjoy the silence.

As a valued customer, we'd like to offer you

a special offer open only to new customers.

We are experiencing an unusual volume.

Please keep your voice down.

You now have three options: death from boredom,

death from apoplexy, death by suicide.

Thank you. Your complaint has been referred to our

satisfaction unit

where it will be answered with due coarseness


This poem has been hacked into.

It was meant to be a private conversation,

the line made secure with end-stops.

But someone cracked the code and listened in.

I hate to think how it will be read

when all I spoke about in confidence —

the pizza, the piazza, the back row of the Plaza —

is out there in the open, on the page.

It’s not my fault the text went viral

but I feel I’ve betrayed your confidence.

What kind of world are we living in,

when poems become public property?

In future I’ll be more clandestine —

keep my voice down and my texts oblique

so that no one comprehends my meaning

or discovers who I’m speaking to

and the line between us is restored

and you can trust me again, as you should:

whoever you are, whatever your name is,

these words are intended just for you.