Elizabeth Bishop calls the Poetry Crisis Line

COUNSELOR: Poetry Crisis Line, what is your emergency?

CALLER: The art of losing isn’t hard to master;

COUNSELOR: But would you want to?

CALLER: so many things seem filled with the intent / to be lost

COUNSELOR: So it’s conceptual art? Or more like, a gallery display of missing things?

CALLER: that

COUNSELOR: Wait—would that also be conceptual art?

CALLER: their loss is no disaster.

COUNSELOR: I’ve never been into conceptual art either.

CALLER: Lose something every day.

COUNSELOR: So do you start with socks and cell phones, and work your way up to extra pounds or a guy in 10 days?

CALLER: Accept the fluster

COUNSELOR: You lost a fluster?

CALLER: of lost door keys,

COUNSELOR: Now I’ve lost my train of thought.

CALLER: the hour badly spent.

COUNSELOR: Were you looking for your fluster? What is a fluster, anyway? Some sort of petticoat?

CALLER: The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

COUNSELOR: So you said.

CALLER: Then practice

COUNSELOR: How many hours a week do you practice losing? Or do you mean like practicing a–

CALLER: losing

COUNSELOR: –religion?

CALLER: farther,

COUNSELOR: Did you look in the corner? Maybe in the spotlight?

CALLER: losing faster:

COUNSELOR: If you lose too fast, it can be hard to keep it off. That’s why those fad diets, like

CALLER: places,

COUNSELOR: South Beach

CALLER: and names,


CALLER: and where it was

COUNSELOR: Where what was? The weight?

CALLER: you meant / to travel.

COUNSELOR: Uh, from my hips to my chest?

CALLER: None of these will bring disaster.

COUNSELOR: I hope not.

CALLER: I lost my mother’s watch.

COUNSELOR: Was she watching? When you lost her watch?

CALLER: And look!

COUNSELOR: So she watched you lose her watch, and it was still lost?

CALLER: my last,

COUNSELOR: So you’re retiring?

CALLER: or / next-to-last,

COUNSELOR: Or thinking of it? It can be hard to quit something you’ve put so much time into.


COUNSELOR: So what’s the biggest thing you ever lost?

CALLER: three loved houses

COUNSELOR: That’s impressive. And you don’t know where they gone?

CALLER: went.

COUNSELOR: Sorry—I was excited. Guess I lost my grammar.

CALLER: The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

COUNSELOR: So you say, but I’m impressed. I mean, you can’t just lose three houses in the washing machine.

CALLER: I lost two cities,

COUNSELOR: What, like Atlantis?

CALLER: lovely ones.

COUNSELOR: Like, um, Yerevan?


COUNSELOR: Did you try looking behind the foothills?

CALLER: vaster,

COUNSELOR: Behind the mountains?

CALLER: some realms

COUNSELOR: Behind countries?

CALLER: I owned,

COUNSELOR: You owned your own realms and you lost them? How big were these realms? Like the space between–

CALLER: two rivers,

COUNSELOR: Right. And how long were the rivers? A couple of miles?

CALLER: a continent.

COUNSELOR: Now that takes talent. And no one’s heard of it? Did the press come to interview you?

CALLER: I miss them,

COUNSELOR: And they don’t come back?


COUNSELOR: So how do you lose a realm, anyway? Earthquake? Tsunami?

CALLER: it wasn’t a disaster.

COUNSELOR: How, then?

CALLER: —Even losing you

COUNSELOR: What? I’m still here.

CALLER: (the joking voice,

COUNSELOR: No, I take you seriously, I’m just blown away.

CALLER: a gesture / I love)

COUNSELOR: So if you love it so much, why are you thinking of giving it up?

CALLER: I shan’t have lied.

COUNSELOR: I didn’t say you had. It’s just—

CALLER: It’s evident

COUNSELOR: But if it’s evident, how is it lost? Is it, like, hiding in plain sight?

CALLER: the art of losing’s not too hard to master

COUNSELOR: Are you sure it doesn’t just seem that way to you?

CALLER: though it may look like

COUNSELOR: Exactly! It seems easy to you, but that may be because it’s easy for you.

CALLER: (Write it!)

COUNSELOR: Write what? Like a poem?

CALLER: like disaster.

COUNSELOR: So, a screenplay? Like Dante’s Peak? Or…um… Sharknado?



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