Poets answer another age-old question (How many poets does it take to change a light bulb?) 10. Gwendolyn Brooks

Poets Answer Another Age-Old Question

How many poets does it take to change a light bulb?

Gwendolyn Brooks

We real bright. We
Changed light. With

Great speed. Now
Let’s read.

The Chicago Picasso calls the Poetry Crisis Line part 2: another angle

Happy birthday to Gwendolyn Brooks, who would have been 104 today.

See part 1 here.

THE CHICAGO PICASSO (caller): And it is easier to stay at home.
PATIENCE (counselor): Because of the pandemic? Or are you afraid to put yourself out there?
THE CHICAGO PICASSO: Because I’m bolted to the freakin’ concrete.

Poetry Crisis Valentines 2021

This year’s Poetry Crisis Valentines:

Roses are red,
Mushrooms are crude.
I saw your great mind
starving, mad, nude.

Roses are red,
violets are blue;
This is the oppressor’s language,
but I need it with you.

Some roses are red,
Some roses are pink;
We’re surrounded by water
With nothing to drink.

Roses are fed
by insects and worms.
Does Man love Art?
Man visits, but squirms.

Roses are red,
Violets are blue.
I told not my Love
& how my Love grew!

Roses are dead,
Violets are through.
I told you my love.
I no longer love you.

Roses are red,
Shakespear’s a hack.
The hair on your head
Is under attack!

Roses are red,
violets are blue.
Competent leadership
should not seem so new!

Click here to see Poetry Crisis Valentines from past years.


The Pool Players at the Golden Shovel call the Poetry Crisis Line

COUNSELOR: Poetry Crisis Line, what is your emergency?
CALLER: We real cool.
COUNSELOR: Can you get warm? Are you at risk of hypothermia?
CALLER: We left school.
COUNSELOR: That’s not important right now. What matters is getting you warm.
CALLER: We lurk late.
COUNSELOR: Lurk where? Can I send someone to help you?
CALLER: We strike straight.
COUNSELOR: Strike out in which direction? Please tell me where I can send someone to help you.
CALLER: We sing sin.
COUNSELOR: Again, that’s not important.
CALLER: We thin gin.
COUNSELOR: I wouldn’t advise that. Alcohol can make you feel warm in the moment, but it can bring on hypothermia faster.
CALLER: We jazz June.
COUNSELOR: That’s good. Think warm, free-flowing thoughts.
CALLER: We die soon.
COUNSELOR: Please don’t give up hope now. Just tell me where I can send help…. Hello? …. Hello?


[View the original by Gwendolyn Brooks here]

Gwendolyn Brooks calls the Poetry Crisis Line

COUNSELOR: Poetry Crisis Line, what is your–

CALLER: John Cabot,

COUNSELOR: I was going to ask what your emergency is, not your–

CALLER: out of Wilma,

COUNSELOR: I don’t know where that is.

CALLER: once a Wycliffe,

COUNSELOR: I’m sorry where is that exactly?

CALLER: all whitebluerose

COUNSELOR: And that’s located…?

CALLER: below his golden hair,

COUNSELOR: Um… geographically?

CALLER: wrapped richly in right linen and right wool,

COUNSELOR: Never mind. What are you calling about?

CALLER: almost forgot his Jaguar

COUNSELOR: Like the big cat? Or the sportscar?

CALLER: and Lake Bluff;

COUNSELOR: And we’re back to geography again. Dude, where’s your car?

CALLER: almost forgot

COUNSELOR: Yeah, I kind of noticed that.

CALLER: Grandtully

COUNSELOR: Where’s that?

CALLER: (which is The / Best Thing That Ever Happened To Scotch);

COUNSELOR: Scotch Plains? In New Jersey?

CALLER:  almost / forgot

COUNSELOR: Again? OK, is there some kind of landmark that can help you remember?

CALLER: the sculpture

COUNSELOR: Good. And where is this sculpture located?

CALLER: at the Richard Gray

COUNSELOR: And that’s where?

CALLER: and Distelheim;

COUNSELOR:  Right. Is that a real place? It sounds like one of those countries from Lord of the Rings.

CALLER: the kidney pie at Maxim’s, / the Grenadine de Boeuf at Maison Henri.

COUNSELOR: Yeah, Tolkien did go on and on about the food sometimes.

CALLER: Because the Negroes were coming down the street.

COUNSELOR: Excuse me?

CALLER: Because the Poor were sweaty and unpretty

COUNSELOR: Wait–so you’re calling because you saw some African Americans on the street? That’s really not cool.

CALLER: (not like Two Dainty Negroes in Winnetka)

COUNSELOR: You’re not helping yourself here.

CALLER: and they were coming toward him in rough ranks.

COUNSELOR: Rank? So they’re in uniform?

CALLER: In seas. In windsweep.

COUNSELOR: Is it Fleet Week already?

CALLER: They were black and loud.

COUNSELOR: I guess so.

CALLER: And not detainable. And not discreet.

COUNSELOR: Yep. That sounds like Fleet Week.

CALLER: Gross.

COUNSELOR: Please don’t judge people.

CALLER:  Gross.

COUNSELOR: Why? What are they doing?

CALLER:  “Que tu es grossier!

COUNSELOR: You’re grossed out because they’re talking French?

CALLER: John Cabot / itched instantly

COUNSELOR: Instantly? Usually stuff that’ll make you itch isn’t spread through casual contact. You’d have to go–

CALLER: beneath the nourished white

COUNSELOR: If that’s what you’d like to call it.

CALLER: that told his story of glory to the World.

COUNSELOR: A bit full of yourself, aren’t you?

CALLER: “Don’t let It touch me!


CALLER: the blackness!


CALLER: Lord!”

COUNSELOR: Yeah, whatever.

CALLER: he whispered / to any handy angel in the sky.

COUNSELOR: Look, I’m sorry if I offended your sensibilities, but…

CALLER: But, in a thrilling announcement,

COUNSELOR: What? You have _more_ to say? You may want to quit while you’re . . . uh. . .

CALLER: on It drove

COUNSELOR: What? I thought you couldn’t find your car.

CALLER: and breathed on him: and touched him.

COUNSELOR: OK–so, back to my earlier question: What has you so grossed out? Because I think the problem might not be–

CALLER:  In that breath  / the fume of pig foot, chitterling and cheap chili,

COUNSELOR: Right. Do you realize how you sound right now?

CALLER: malign,


CALLER:  mocked John.

COUNSELOR: I’m not mocking you, it’s just that it sounds like you’ve got a pretty good life, with a lot of nice things, but you’re getting all worked up because you saw some noisy black people walking down the street. That isn’t cool, man.

CALLER: And, in terrific touch, old / averted doubt jerked forward decently,

COUNSELOR:  About time.

CALLER: cried, “Cabot! John! You are a desperate man, / and

COUNSELOR: You don’t sound desperate exactly–you just need to get your priorities in order before–

CALLER: the desperate die expensively today.”


CALLER: John Cabot went down in the smoke and fire

COUNSELOR: Wait–you’re not him?

CALLER: and broken glass

COUNSELOR: Hang on. This is a woman’s voice.


COUNSELOR: And I’ve heard this voice before, at a reading, I think.

CALLER: blood, and he cried

COUNSELOR:  OMG, am I talking to Gwendolyn Brooks?

CALLER:  “Lord! / Forgive these n—–s that know not what they do.”

COUNSELOR: It’s OK Ms. Brooks. We cool. [puts on sunglasses] We real cool.