Gwendolyn Brooks calls the Poetry Crisis Line

COUNSELOR: Poetry Crisis Line, what is your–

CALLER: John Cabot,

COUNSELOR: I was going to ask what your emergency is, not your–

CALLER: out of Wilma,

COUNSELOR: I don’t know where that is.

CALLER: once a Wycliffe,

COUNSELOR: I’m sorry where is that exactly?

CALLER: all whitebluerose

COUNSELOR: And that’s located…?

CALLER: below his golden hair,

COUNSELOR: Um… geographically?

CALLER: wrapped richly in right linen and right wool,

COUNSELOR: Never mind. What are you calling about?

CALLER: almost forgot his Jaguar

COUNSELOR: Like the big cat? Or the sportscar?

CALLER: and Lake Bluff;

COUNSELOR: And we’re back to geography again. Dude, where’s your car?

CALLER: almost forgot

COUNSELOR: Yeah, I kind of noticed that.

CALLER: Grandtully

COUNSELOR: Where’s that?

CALLER: (which is The / Best Thing That Ever Happened To Scotch);

COUNSELOR: Scotch Plains? In New Jersey?

CALLER:  almost / forgot

COUNSELOR: Again? OK, is there some kind of landmark that can help you remember?

CALLER: the sculpture

COUNSELOR: Good. And where is this sculpture located?

CALLER: at the Richard Gray

COUNSELOR: And that’s where?

CALLER: and Distelheim;

COUNSELOR:  Right. Is that a real place? It sounds like one of those countries from Lord of the Rings.

CALLER: the kidney pie at Maxim’s, / the Grenadine de Boeuf at Maison Henri.

COUNSELOR: Yeah, Tolkien did go on and on about the food sometimes.

CALLER: Because the Negroes were coming down the street.

COUNSELOR: Excuse me?

CALLER: Because the Poor were sweaty and unpretty

COUNSELOR: Wait–so you’re calling because you saw some African Americans on the street? That’s really not cool.

CALLER: (not like Two Dainty Negroes in Winnetka)

COUNSELOR: You’re not helping yourself here.

CALLER: and they were coming toward him in rough ranks.

COUNSELOR: Rank? So they’re in uniform?

CALLER: In seas. In windsweep.

COUNSELOR: Is it Fleet Week already?

CALLER: They were black and loud.

COUNSELOR: I guess so.

CALLER: And not detainable. And not discreet.

COUNSELOR: Yep. That sounds like Fleet Week.

CALLER: Gross.

COUNSELOR: Please don’t judge people.

CALLER:  Gross.

COUNSELOR: Why? What are they doing?

CALLER:  “Que tu es grossier!

COUNSELOR: You’re grossed out because they’re talking French?

CALLER: John Cabot / itched instantly

COUNSELOR: Instantly? Usually stuff that’ll make you itch isn’t spread through casual contact. You’d have to go–

CALLER: beneath the nourished white

COUNSELOR: If that’s what you’d like to call it.

CALLER: that told his story of glory to the World.

COUNSELOR: A bit full of yourself, aren’t you?

CALLER: “Don’t let It touch me!


CALLER: the blackness!


CALLER: Lord!”

COUNSELOR: Yeah, whatever.

CALLER: he whispered / to any handy angel in the sky.

COUNSELOR: Look, I’m sorry if I offended your sensibilities, but…

CALLER: But, in a thrilling announcement,

COUNSELOR: What? You have _more_ to say? You may want to quit while you’re . . . uh. . .

CALLER: on It drove

COUNSELOR: What? I thought you couldn’t find your car.

CALLER: and breathed on him: and touched him.

COUNSELOR: OK–so, back to my earlier question: What has you so grossed out? Because I think the problem might not be–

CALLER:  In that breath  / the fume of pig foot, chitterling and cheap chili,

COUNSELOR: Right. Do you realize how you sound right now?

CALLER: malign,


CALLER:  mocked John.

COUNSELOR: I’m not mocking you, it’s just that it sounds like you’ve got a pretty good life, with a lot of nice things, but you’re getting all worked up because you saw some noisy black people walking down the street. That isn’t cool, man.

CALLER: And, in terrific touch, old / averted doubt jerked forward decently,

COUNSELOR:  About time.

CALLER: cried, “Cabot! John! You are a desperate man, / and

COUNSELOR: You don’t sound desperate exactly–you just need to get your priorities in order before–

CALLER: the desperate die expensively today.”


CALLER: John Cabot went down in the smoke and fire

COUNSELOR: Wait–you’re not him?

CALLER: and broken glass

COUNSELOR: Hang on. This is a woman’s voice.


COUNSELOR: And I’ve heard this voice before, at a reading, I think.

CALLER: blood, and he cried

COUNSELOR:  OMG, am I talking to Gwendolyn Brooks?

CALLER:  “Lord! / Forgive these n—–s that know not what they do.”

COUNSELOR: It’s OK Ms. Brooks. We cool. [puts on sunglasses] We real cool.

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