To Bring or Not Bring Your Phone

by | Jonathan Cardew - February Day 1

To Bring or Not Bring My Phone

Off to the woods, I go to die (again).
Do I bring my phone this time?
Service is reliable, a strong connection
will exist until I: A) drain battery,
B) turn phone off, C) lose phone,
D) bury phone. I consider creating
a list: pro’s/con’s, black ink, yellow
legal paper—habit formed years ago.

When first diagnosed—the intimations
of severe pain, reduced life quality,
organ atrophy, followed by complete
system collapse, seemed distant
as Mongolia. I walked frequently,
often off mapped forest trails.
I camped on mossy ground. I held
my phone lightly, a minor toy,
a diversion. I snapped the requisite
selfie, smiled the perfunctory smile.

When you bring your phone, you imagine
you have brought the world. You
feel you are not alone. Or so
you tell yourself. It thrums
almost like a sentient being
in your backpack. It’s filled
with page after page of medical
research. At any moment,
you can assess your current
state. You can provide
evidence you live. You can
see how long before
you die.

Without your phone, you might
find yourself in a too tenuous
position. You might not hold
all the knowledge you know.
You would be stuck with your
own skills and tricks. Your
own reading of the sun.
You might hear your breath,
It’s steady rise and fall.
A sound you have forgotten
how to listen for.

You will decide, eventually,
to leave the phone at home.
You will decide when you’ve
had enough of everything
the portal has to give.
Then you will walk as you
haven’t walked before. Death
will be closer than Mongolia.
Death will be a destination
a year or two ahead. You will
have stopped walking to escape it.
You won’t exactly be rushing to
embrace it, but you will know
it’s up there, not too far
beyond the bend.

You will do this, or
you won’t. You are still
unsure. Sometimes a trail
takes an unexpected turn,
and suddenly you are stranded
in the midst of leaves everywhere.
A phone might take a nice pic.
Or help you identify tree type.
Or let you try to call home.

Because, let’s face it, when one
goes to the root of the matter,
when it’s at the end of the day,
the phone does not really
matter, how long you lived
Isn’t that relevant, the weather
will have been the weather.
Only one thing is going
to count: that you have
a home to go to, that
somewhere there is a bed,
pillow, sheets. You will
tuck yourself in, or if you’re
really lucky, someone
will do that for you.
You will forget what a phone
was for. You will remember
your mother, you will
remember your long dead sister.
You will close your eyes,
and you will sleep, you will sleep.


  1. Jonathan Cardew


    It’s great to read your work here! Was it really September last that we were at Cedar Valley? How time flies–I hope you are doing well.

    I loved this piece very, very much. I was swept up by it. For a prose writer, I appreciated the prose-like quality of the poem, but that’s not what drew me in.

    The phone drew me in. I love your treatment of this subject, the way the poem goes back and forth over the need and desire for a phone, until finally the phone is supplanted by the things that actually matter. This is a great ending to your piece and made for an incredibly satisfying experience as a reader.


    I’m not much of poet, but I can see that this follows a secure poetic line. Here are some of my thoughts if you work on this any further:

    1. Shorten it? I’ve been saying this a lot today! It isn’t because you have any baggage in this piece, but brevity may sharpen the poem into clearer focus.

    2. You change to “you” a few stanzas in, but perhaps you could keep the “I” throughout instead.


    This may be an early draft, but there’s no harm in thinking of possible venues! I feel like this might go down well at Pidgeonholes (though you probably know more poetry venues).

    Great to work with you again!


  2. David O'Connor

    Lucy, I’ve had this thought before, the decision fatigue, the phone dilemma, but you capture it and put it much better than I ever could. That turn at the end to home and family–and weather will be weather–so zen and true. I love this poem. Keep it all in the second person. Publish it. We need it. This is what poetry is for. I feel less alone. (and I’m going out phoneless today, thanks!)

  3. Martha Jackson Kaplan

    The conceit using the idea of the cell phone to move us through the chilling question of life or death is remarkable. Addressing all that surrounds a quest of this nature is difficult and yet you did this well.

  4. Robert Vaughan

    Hi Lucy, love this so much, the details, the social commentary on how much we rely on technology, the constant “likes” or validations. To phone, or not to phone. I also, like Jon, appreciated your straight forward narrative technique. Also, like DOC, I chose not to take my phone with me to the grocery or on my walk outside. So thanks for this!

  5. Wilson Koewing


    This piece affected me. I love the use of the phone to enter into this profound meditation on life. Really excellent. I am very sad right now. Fine work! If i had any suggestion it would be to just go through and maybe remove some words or lines here and there to get it really crisp and tightly edited.


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