The Poetry Crisis Line tries to stay out of politics, but sometimes politicians won’t stay out of poetry. So after Ken Cuccinelli, Acting Director of US Citizenship and Immigration Services, suggested corrections to “The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus (aka, the “Statue of Liberty Poem”), we asked Mr. Cuccinelli if there were any other classic poems he’d like to rewrite. He gave us the following:
Give me your tired, your poor who can stand on their own two feet
and who will not become a public charge.
William Carlos Williams†
I have eaten
that were in
they coud not
they were lazy
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Water, water everywhere
But not a drop to drink
Unless you can afford to pay
For access to the sink
Tyger! Tyger! Burning bright
In the forest of the night,
If you come here to the States,
You’d better sell some Frosted Flakes.
*Mr Cuccinelli’s suggested revision.
†We made the rest of these up.
COUNSELOR: Poetry Crisis Line, what is your emergency?
CALLER: In Xanadu did Kubla Khan / A stately pleasure-dome decree:
COUNSELOR: No sir, Khan was in Star Trek II; Xanadu starred Olivia Newton-John.
CALLER: Where Alph,
COUNSELOR: ALF was only on TV, sir. I don’t know if his planet was in the Federation.
CALLER: the sacred river, ran
COUNSELOR: –through it?
CALLER: Through caverns measureless to man
COUNSELOR: I think that was in Tremors. Did you just call me to ask about movie trivia?
A man shot a bird on a boat,
Then helplessly drifted afloat
Until he learned mercy,
But he’d earned this curse–he
Must keep on repeating, by rote:
“A man shot a bird on a boat,
COUNSELOR Poetry Crisis Line. What is your emergency?
COUNSELOR: Are you thirsty, sir?
COUNSELOR: Are you on land? Is there a risk of drowning?
CALLER: …and all the boards…
COUNSELOR: I’m confused. There’s water on your floorboards?
CALLER: …did shrink.
COUNSELOR: I’m not a shrink. I’m working on my MFA.
COUNSELOR: So you ARE thirsty?
CALLER: …water everywhere…
COUNSELOR: Oh, right. Haven’t we been over this?
CALLER: …nor any drop to drink.
COUNSELOR: Sir, I think you’ve had enough to drink already.