The Cold Caller

cold caller

illustration: Elena Caldera, ‘Death-phone’

A friend suggested,
‘When you get a nuisance call
‘This is what to say:

“Ah, I’m glad you rang.
“I’ve done what you asked me.
“The body’s right here.

“There’s blood everywhere.
“Tell me what I should do next.”
‘They’ll always hang up,’

My friend insisted.
‘You won’t be troubled again.’
Next day the phone rings.

The phone’s display panel
Registers the word ‘Withheld’ –
A tell-tale signal.

“Mr. Williams?”
“It is. How may I help you?”
The social salesman’s

Robotic voice then
Pitches in: “…Double glazing” Or
“We’re doing some market research.”

Or, “As to your insurance claim…”
Or, “Please give me your bank details.
“It won’t take a minute.”

Soon you realize
That there is no one there.
An algorithm

Has contacted you.
There’s no point in your jokey script.
Robots don’t do jokes.

These ceaseless voices
Are capitalism’s tsetse flies,
Guided by money.

You’re not a person.
To them you are a “prospect”,
Something to be milked.

Cold call companies
With their digital scatterguns
Make billions a year.

Their earworms enter the brain,
Insinuating; often intimidating.
Victims can be bankrupted.

The last cold caller is death.
He too withholds his number
And his call can’t be blocked.

Slamming the phone down
Won’t make any difference.
He’ll always get through.

What he sells will be worthless.
He’ll ignore your irritation
For there’s no one there –

Just the Lord of the Flies,
Alien, unexpected
And unaccountable.


Heathcote Williams



By Heathcote Williams

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