Telephone Voices: 'You are number [ ] in the queue'

by Matthew Magill

Telephone Voices has come to a close and marks the first of Radical Art Review’s creative writing competitions. We chose this theme as a way to explore our current reliance on technology to maintain our social lives.


We asked the submitting artists to explore how we interact with each other when our main form of communication is divorced from physical spaces. Now that we have spent a year almost exclusively reaching out through the ether to each other, our poets answer the question: Who am I speaking to, you or the telephone?


Due to the number of extremely high-quality submissions, we decided to highlight two runners-up that made it to the final selection stages. We loved You are number [ ] in the queue for its understated power, disguising a strong understanding of narrative technique under a veil of accessible minimalism. Read on for the full poem below.

Poem title: 'you are number [   ] in the queue' Poem text: 'In that span of six months / when everyone I loved was close to dying, / I had the GP's hold line memorised. / We would sing the garbled music back and forth, / mouth along to pre-recorded patter, / any good distraction from the reasons we were ringing. / Sometimes, you must take your trauma as it forms, / and mould it into something / a little less haunting.

Related: Telephone Voices - a gaslighter sighs on the other end

Mikey Barnes is a queer trans man poet and researcher from Leeds. He was the winner of the Stonewall Young Writers competition 2016, a member of the winning team at Unislam 2018, and a Final Stage selected performed at CUPSI 2018. He self-publishes solo and collaborative poetry zines about language, sex, and Taylor Swift. You can hear more from Mikey by following them on Instagram at @lavenderboyblue.