Mark Strand calls the Poetry Crisis Line

STAFFER: Poetry Crisis Line, what is your emergency?
CALLER: A train runs over me.
STAFFER: Oh my God! Are you hurt? Can I send an ambulance?
CALLER: I feel sorry
STAFFER: Don’t. You don’t have to worry about me.
CALLER: for the engineer
STAFFER: Or him. Or her. Whichever. We need to focus on you.
CALLER: who crouches down / and whispers in my ear
CALLER: that he is innocent.
STAFFER:  What? He said what?
CALLER: He wipes my forehead,
STAFFER:  That’s good. But it’s not OK to pin this on you. That’s called victim blaming, and it’s not OK. The train would still have hit you if you were dressed differently, or if you weren’t walking on the wrong side of the tracks–
CALLER: blows the ashes
STAFFER:  –I mean, OK, it’s a train, so you had to be on the tracks for it to–wait–ashes? Is something on fire?
CALLER: from my lips.
STAFFER: This guy has NO concept of personal space.
CALLER: My blood streams
STAFFER:  What? Never mind about personal space, you need an ambulance! Please tell me where you are.
CALLER: in the evening air,
STAFFER: Well, yeah, but where? In the evening air where?
CALLER: clouding his glasses.
STAFFER:  No. This isn’t about him.
CALLER: He whispers in my ear
STAFFER: You need to understand this is not about him.
CALLER: the details of his life–
STAFFER: Clearly he needs to understand that, too.
CALLER: he has a wife / and child he loves,
STAFFER: That’s great. Can we come back to this after we’ve gotten YOU some help?
CALLER: he’s always been / an engineer.
STAFFER: Right. Any chance you could put the engineer on the phone? Or somebody who actually WANTS my help?


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