The landlord said he lost his phone.

by Aisha Sasha John

copyright ©2017 by Aisha Sasha John

The tenant she said call it.
He said I did, I did
And then the tenant’s boyfriend was like
I called you and a girl picked up and
Said it was the wrong number.
(And I’m like okay so it was the wrong number why are you even
Telling the guy that)
And then her boyfriend was like ya, I called it four times
She said it was the wrong number.
And then, then I was like okay. Hmm what the fuck.
And the tenant was like maybe it was your wife?
And her boyfriend was like no it
Was a girl.
So there’s a
Question there.

Also apparently the dog likes the cat
But the cat
Does not like the dog.

Notes on the Poem

In the poem "The landlord said he lost his phone", we're left breathless and intrigued again by Aisha Sasha John's highly attuned ear for colloquial interjections and rhythms. She hints at layers of meaning under the seemingly quotidian in this selection from her 2018 Griffin Poetry Prize shortlisted collection I have to live. The poem unfolds uncannily like that half of a conversation you can't help but overhear next to someone on their phone at a bus stop or during a quick lunch grabbed at the food court. The person speaking in this half conversation seems to be tossing off a sequence of remarks ... "The tenant she said ..." "He said ..." "And then the tenant's boyfriend ..." The speaker's recap of the situation is peppered with "likes" that, in normal parlance these days, are so ubiquitous it's almost surprising to seem them transcribed here. The pointed suspicion of the parenthetical remark makes clear, however, that the casual tone is deceptive. The speaker is very attentive to what is going on, not unlike the seemingly heedless but very aware narrator of John's poem "I fold in half." What might seem on one level to be light or even humorous - a recounting of different people interpreting a situation differently, a game of phone tag or missed connections - might also have an undercurrent of more menacing subterfuge, circling back to the poem's title. The landlord is avoiding calls, making excuses, and that might mean the roof over someone's head is no longer an assured thing. In other words ... "And then, then I was like okay. Hmm what the fuck." In addition to that dilemma, the poem closes with an enigmatic line. Is it the voice of the person speaking to this point, or is it the listener? "Also apparently" doesn't really sound like the idiom of the speaker to this point, does it? After the flurry of "likes" preceding it, the use of "likes" as a verb sounds almost jarringly unusual. Hmm ...

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