Adrienne Rich re-calls the Poetry Crisis Line

COUNSELOR: Poetry Crisis Line, what is your emergency?

CALLER: I dreamed I called you on the telephone

COUNSELOR: And now you did. Wow!

CALLER: to say: Be kinder to yourself

COUNSELOR: That’s nice of you. What did I say?

CALLER: but you were sick and would not answer

COUNSELOR: I’m sorry.

CALLER: The waste of my love goes on this way

COUNSELOR: To be fair, you were dreaming. And I’m here now.

CALLER: trying to save you from yourself

COUNSELOR: But you can’t do that.

CALLER: I have always wondered

COUNSELOR: You can’t. That’s not how it works. You can help me save myself, but only if I’m willing to accept your help.

CALLER: about the leftover / energy,

COUNSELOR: After a shift here, I usually don’t have a whole lot left.

CALLER: water rushing down a hill

COUNSELOR: More like down the drain.

CALLER: long after the rains have stopped

COUNSELOR: No, the drain, with a d.

CALLER: or the fire


CALLER: you want

COUNSELOR: to get out? If there’s a fire, you want to get out.

CALLER: to go to bed from

COUNSELOR: from a fire?

CALLER: but cannot leave,

COUNSELOR: How can we sleep when the beds are–

CALLER:  burning-down

COUNSELOR: –the house?

CALLER:  but not burnt-down

COUNSELOR: You’re a real live wire.

CALLER: the red coals more extreme,

COUNSELOR: They do sound extreme. But I’m not–

CALLER: more curious

COUNSELOR: Well, maybe a little.

CALLER: in their flashing

COUNSELOR: Yes, a flash of curiosity–

CALLER:  and

COUNSELOR: –but I’d be more concerned about–

CALLER: dying

COUNSELOR: Yes, that. Seriously. You call and say you want to save me from myself, and then you’re telling me to go to sleep in a burning building. I mean…you do understand that there is a middle ground? I get that you want to help, and that sometimes it’s frustrating when you can’t, but people need to be able to make their own decisions–even if sometimes their choices are different–

CALLER: than you wish they were

COUNSELOR: Exactly! Well, almost exactly. It should be from you wish they were. I mean from what you wish they were. From whom you wish they were? Or something like that. It’s been a long shift, and I’m–

CALLER: sitting there


CALLER: long after midnight

COUNSELOR: It is? This has been a long shift. I was supposed to clock out at five.

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