Edna St Vincent Millay calls the Poetry Crisis Line

Happy 129th birthday to Edna St. Vincent Millay, who had something to say about being housebound.

KIM (counselor): Poetry Crisis Line, what is your emergency?
EDNA ST VINCENT MILLAY (caller): It’s little I care what path I take
KIM: I’ve heard it can make all the difference.
MILLAY: And where it leads it’s little I care
KIM: As long as you can stay 6 feet away from people?
KIM: I hear you.

From “Departure” by Edna St. Vincent Millay.

Edna St. Vincent Millay calls the Poetry Crisis Line

STAFFER: Poetry Crisis Line, what is your emergency?

CALLER: Love has gone and left me

COUNSELOR: I’m sorry to hear that.

CALLER: and the days are all alike;

STAFFER: It can feel like that for a while after a breakup.

CALLER: Eat I must,

STAFFER: Yes, that’s important.

CALLER: and sleep I will, —

STAFFER: Yes, that too.

CALLER: and would that night were here!

STAFFER: Night is good for sleeping, but if you’re tired now, you can just–

CALLER: But ah! —

STAFFER: Are you ok? What happened?

CALLER: to lie awake and hear the slow hours strike!

STAFFER: Oh. That can be rough.

CALLER: Would that it were day again! —

STAFFER: What? But you just said–

CALLER:  with twilight near!

STAFFER: Make up your mind, girl.

CALLER: Love has gone and left me

STAFFER: Oh, right. Sorry for being impatient.

CALLER: and I don’t know what to do;

STAFFER: Eat, sleep. Those are the big ones. Breathing is also pretty nifty.

CALLER: This or that or what you will is all the same to me;

STAFFER: I tend to go for comfort foods after a breakup. Grilled cheese. Chicken soup. Ice cream straight out of the carton…

CALLER: But all the things that I begin I leave before I’m through, —

STAFFER: You don’t have to finish the whole tube of cookie dough; just make sure to eat something. [reaches down under the desk]

CALLER: There’s little use in anything as far as I can see.

STAFFER [comes up from the desk with a tub of ice cream and a large spoon]: I know it feels like that now, but–

CALLER: Love has gone and left me, —

STAFFER: Yes, I know–

CALLER: and the neighbors knock and borrow,

STAFFER [eats a large spoonful of ice cream]: What, like a cup of sugar, or like your lawnmower and your car? [swallows] Never mind, it’s good to have people around.

CALLER: And life goes on

STAFFER [eats ice cream]: That’s good.

CALLER: forever

STAFFER: No, I’m pretty sure that–

CALLER: like the gnawing of a mouse, —

STAFFER: Huh. You could get a cat? [eats ice cream]

CALLER: And to-morrow and to-morrow and to-morrow

STAFFER: Wait, I know this one! “Creeps in its petty pace from day to day…” [grabs a bottle of vodka from a desk drawer and takes a swig]

CALLER:  and to-morrow

STAFFER: No, that’s one extra. I’m pretty sure there’s only three.

CALLER: There’s this little street

STAFFER: You don’t sound very Street. [eats ice cream] but you have one more tomorrow than Macbeth… Or, come to think of it… [drinks vodka] …did Macbeth have any tomorrows left? I mean, he was already under siege by then, right? [Eats ice cream]

CALLER:  and this little house.

STAFFER [holding a sunbonnet in one hand]: Little House? I thought we were doing Shakespeare. [Puts down sunbonnet, picks up a potted plant in a miniature kilt. Moves plant like an improvised puppet, while talking with a fake Scottish accent] ’Til Birnam Wood be come to Dunsinane. [drinks]

CALLER [stares off into space and says nothing.]

STAFFER [to plant in kilt]: Have fun storming the castle! [drinks]