Working the airwaves and the phones.

“… their ‘before’ photos not much different

from my own face glimpsed

in the mirror …”

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Road-bleary still, sluggish

after short sleep, wondering

if I were past the age

for strenuous travel,

I turned on the motel TV

and there they were, pert brunette

(short hair, magenta suit)

and (blue dress, curls

falling past her shoulder blades)

sunny blond. I meant to turn

to the Weather Channel but didn’t,

kept listening instead as with sculpted

smiles, in confidential tones,

they proclaimed the advantages

of the Non-Surgical Face Lift Exerciser,

available for four low payments of only

$59.95, and including a DC adaptor,

as well as a complimentary bottle

of lotion used to convey low-voltage

jolts to muscles attached under the facial


skin. Ludicrous, I told myself—the perfect makeup, precisely crossed

(smoothly stockinged) knees,

the parade of scripted testimonials

from more ordinary-looking

women, some older,

their “before” photos not much different

from my own face glimpsed

in the mirror, saggy with fatigue,

the woman who claimed

she’d been skeptical,

trying the Exerciser on only

half of her face. Surely

there was something — a small sponge? —

stuffed in her other cheek.


Call now, a disembodied voice urged

as I read, emblazoned on the screen,



*—-stick skinny woman

*—-hour glass girl

*—-fat grandmothers

*—-sisters sitting cross-legged

*—-flat-chested woman

*—-big-breasted woman

*—-woman in a snit

*—-pregnant woman

*—-woman kneeling


and who are you,

I asked the perky brunette –

Petula Pan?


But she was still smiling, as if

she’d known all along I’d grab my pen

and jot the number in my notebook –

not because I believed her but

just in case, because maybe, after

all, it might possibly work.


Sue Chenette is an editor for the Canadian poetry press Brick Books, and the author of Slender Human Weight (Guernica Editions 2009) and The Bones of His Being (Guernica Editions 2012).

The newest in phones, 1961.