Peter Austin


A Single Pair of Ears

For now it was a handful—eyes aglaze—
Who sat behind their laptop’s hidden screen
Beating (as far as he knew) jack with queen,
Immune to his incendiary gaze.
For now he could ignore them, like the few
Who didn’t show at all but skulked in bed
Nursing the binger’s pulsatory head
Or fed the fish last midnight’s vindaloo.

In dreams, though, he had seen the coming morn
When students, all, behind their laptop lids
Would shoot down Stukas, shuffle men on grids
Or ogle (brash as magpies!) Swedish porn
While he debated Loman’s fate or Lear’s
Unheeded by a single pair of ears.


A Cellphone

He was cycling on the sidewalk
With a cellphone in his grip
And I figured he was sending out a text,
For his thumbs were pressing letters
At a hypersonic clip,
And I stood and watched him, silently perplexed.

Aren’t the handlebars essential
To the riding of a bike?
Aren’t we taught to keep our eyes on where we’re bound?
Letting hands or eyes go AWOL
Seems a little lemminglike,
But … well anyhow, he met with bumpy ground

And his cellphone surfed the sidewalk,
Came to rest against my boot
While he tried to grab the handlebars in vain,
For the bike had turned a ninety
Into Vince’s Veg & Fruit
And upended a display of sugar cane,

Pulping stems so plump and many
That the tire treads lost their grip
And the bike and rider slid across the floor
Through a just constructed tower
Built of Pringle chips and dip,
Fetching up against a walk-in freezer door.

In a trice, I’d picked his phone up,
Flipped it open, called emerg,
Yelled, “An ambulance, to Vince’s Veg and Fruit!”
If that switchboard lady wasn’t
An authentic thaumaturge,
May my dying days be dogged by disrepute:

Paramedics (two, and hefty)
Had the paddles on his chest
While, “Goodbye, and thanks,” still teetered on my tongue,
And his ticker back in business
’Neath its Lycra cycling vest
With an admirable lack of Sturm und Drang.

On his way out, on a gurney,
He exhaled a painful gasp
And—his diaphragm in desperation flexed—
Whispered, “Cellphone!” In a second
It was back within his grasp
And I saw two trembling thumbs begin to text.



Peter Austin is the author of three collections of poems and a short novel in verse. His work has appeared in such places as Iambs & Trochees, The New Formalist, The Raintown Review, The Pennsylvania Review, and Contemporary Sonnet. He and his wife and three daughters live in Toronto, where he teaches English at Seneca College.