T.S. Eliot calls the Poetry Crisis Line on Ash Wednesday

COUNSELOR: Poetry Crisis Line, what is your emergency?

CALLER: Because I do not hope to turn again

COUNSELOR: Could I get you to pull over before you continue this call?

CALLER: Because I do not hope

COUNSELOR: No, it’s for your own safety.

CALLER: Because I do not hope

COUNSELOR: Whatever it is, it can’t be completely hopeless. What is it you’re hoping for?

CALLER: to turn

COUNSELOR: Is there a lot of traffic? Just pull over now, and make the turn once you’re off the phone.

CALLER: Desiring this man’s gift

COUNSELOR: Are you gift shopping? If you’re in a mall parking lot, I can understand why turning seems hopeless.


COUNSELOR: Is it a close friend? What are you planning to get him?

CALLER: that man’s scope

COUNSELOR: Used mouthwash? As a gift?

CALLER: I no longer strive

COUNSELOR: No kidding.

CALLER: to strive toward such things.

COUNSELOR: Yeah, you’ve seriously stopped trying.


COUNSELOR: Because it’s a gift. A present should be something…you know, … something someone will actually want.

CALLER: Should the aged eagle stretch its wings?)

COUNSELOR: That’s more imaginative than used mouthwash, I’ll grant you. But, um, when it comes to gift ideas, you might also want to steer clear of endangered species.

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