Walt Whitman calls the Poetry Crisis Line—Part II

(Read Part I here.)

CALLER: Do you see O my brothers and sisters?
COUNSELOR: No, sir, we’re on the phone. I don’t see anything where you are.
CALLER: It is not chaos or death —
COUNSELOR: I’m glad to hear it—but I’d still like you to let me call you an ambulance.
CALLER: it is form,
COUNSELOR: Are you sure? Your scansion is all over the place.
CALLER: union,
COUNSELOR: I’m glad someone is protecting your rights. But–
CALLER: plan —
COUNSELOR: Wait—you meant for this to happen?
CALLER: it is eternal life — it is Happiness.
COUNSELOR: Please, sir—don’t go to the light. Stay with me now.
CALLER: The past and present wilt —
COUNSELOR: The past doesn’t matter. But please hang on in the present. Remember to breathe. Feel the air in your lungs.
CALLER: I have fill’d them, emptied them,
COUNSELOR: Good! Breathe in, breathe out.
CALLER: And proceed to fill my next fold of the future.
COUNSELOR: Exactly. The future is yours to make.
CALLER: Listener up there! what have you to confide to me?
COUNSELOR: No, sir. That’s not how it works. I’m here to listen.
CALLER: Look in my face
COUNSELOR: I can’t do that sir. This is an anonymous call.
CALLER: while I snuff the sidle of evening,
COUNSELOR: Now hold in—that doesn’t mean it’s OK for you to go around snuffing people.
CALLER: (Talk honestly,
COUNSELOR: I mean it!
CALLER: no one else hears you,
COUNSELOR: I know it’s just us, but I’ll still stand by what I said.
CALLER: and I stay only a minute longer.)
COUNSELOR: Please hang in there, sir.
CALLER: Do I contradict myself?
COUNSELOR: I don’t think so.
CALLER: Very well then I contradict myself,
COUNSELOR: In what way, sir?
CALLER: (I am large,
COUNSELOR: It’s OK sir. You don’t need to worry about your weight.
CALLER: I contain multitudes.)
COUNSELOR: Or what people say about it.
CALLER: I concentrate toward them that are nigh,
COUNSELOR: That’s good. You can’t expect to please everyone. Start with those who are closest.
CALLER: I wait on the door-slab.
COUNSELOR: I haven’t sent the ambulance yet, sir.
CALLER: Who has done his day’s work?
COUNSELOR: I’m trying, but you haven’t told me where you are.
CALLER: who will soonest be through with his supper?
COUNSELOR: I don’t know who’s on call, sir.
CALLER: Who wishes to walk with me?
COUNSELOR: I don’t know, but they will come if you tell me where you are.
CALLER: Will you speak before I am gone?
COUNSELOR: That’s what I’m trying to do, sir.
CALLER: will you prove already too late?
COUNSELOR: I hope not. Please stay with me.

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