Excerpted from “Let America be America Again” by Langston Hughes.
The roof leaks; the stairs have a crack,
and there’s other problems out back.
You say I owe rent?
You won’t get a cent
’til…. [arrested for Renting While Black]
COUNSELOR: Poetry Crisis Line, what is your emergency?
COUNSELOR: I see. And what is your landlord trying to do?
COUNSELOR: I mean, is the landlord harassing you, or attempting to evict you?
CALLER: My roof has sprung a leak.
COUNSELOR: So, refusing to make necessary repairs. Is there water, water everywhere?
CALLER: Don’t you ‘member I told you about it / Way last week?
COUNSELOR: It may have been someone else who took your call.
COUNSELOR: I mean another counselor here.
COUNSELOR: I don’t think your landlord works here. But if he does, it would be a conflict of interest for him to take your call.
CALLER: These steps is broken down.
COUNSELOR: So you think someone didn’t follow the steps properly in reporting a conflict of interest? That would be a problem. Or are you talking about a Twelve-Step program?
CALLER: When you come up yourself
COUNSELOR: I’m sorry, we don’t do home visits.
CALLER:It’s a wonder you don’t fall down.
COUNSELOR: Many people stumble on addiction programs. If you’re having trouble with Twelve Step, modern counseling methods may be more effective for you.
CALLER: Ten Bucks you say I owe you?
COUNSELOR: No, sir, this is a free service.
CALLER: Ten Bucks you say is due?
COUNSELOR: The crisis line is free. If we refer you, then the counseling may cost money, depending on your insurance.
CALLER: Well, that’s Ten Bucks more’n I’l pay you
COUNSELOR: That’s fine, sir. You aren’t obligated to give us money—now or in the future.
CALLER: Till you fix this house up new.
COUNSELOR: No, sir. We can help clarify the issues, but ultimately it’s up to you to solve your own problems.