Poets Answer an Age-Old Question (part 6)

Happy birthday to Theodore Roethke, who would have turned 112 on Monday, had it not been Memorial Day. Uh, I mean, had it not been for his untimely death in 1963. Except that, you know, a timely death would have caught up with him by now.


Poets answer an age-old question
Why did the chicken cross the road?

Theodore Roethke:
I cross the road, but take the crossing slow,
But don’t ask why—for now I do not know.
(I learn by going where I have to go.)

Theodore Roethke calls the Poetry Crisis Line

COUNSELOR: Poetry Crisis Line, what is your emergency?

CALLER: I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.   

COUNSELOR: I’ve had mornings like that. Do you feel this way often?

CALLER: I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.   

COUNSELOR: I’ll take that as a yes. Have you found any coping strategies that work for you?

CALLER: I learn by going where I have to go.

COUNSELOR: So, just take it as it comes and see what happens?

CALLER: We think by feeling.

COUNSELOR: That is so true. Most people don’t seem to realize it, but—

CALLER: What is there to know?   

COUNSELOR: Exactly! So much of what we think of as objective truth is just our own justification for what we want to believe.

CALLER: I hear my being dance from ear to ear.   

COUNSELOR: So you’re at least aware of your own subjectivity. How does that make you feel?

CALLER: I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

COUNSELOR: So… still waking up then?

CALLER: Of those so close beside me,

COUNSELOR: So there are other people with you?

CALLER: which are you?   

COUNSELOR: I’m not there, sir. I’m on the phone.

CALLER: God bless the Ground!  

COUNSELOR: So you’re calling from a landline? Or you need to ground yourself? Or are you talking literally about the ground?

CALLER: I shall walk softly there,   

COUNSELOR: Right. So if you’re not on the ground, where are you? The ferry? The subway?

CALLER: And learn by going where I have to go.

COUNSELOR: Do you know what the next stop is? Maybe I can help you figure out which line you’re on.

CALLER: Light takes the Tree;

COUNSELOR: You can connect from the Light Rail to the Three train at Christopher Street, or if you’re at the World Trade Center, you can walk north to Chambers Street, or northeast to Park Place.

CALLER: but who can tell us how?   

COUNSELOR: If you’re at the World Trade Center, there should be a conductor you can ask for directions.

CALLER: The lowly worm climbs up a winding stair;   

COUNSELOR: That sounds like Christopher Street. Turn left when you exit the station, and walk east for a couple of blocks.

CALLER: I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

COUNSELOR: I hear you. I think there’s a coffee place on the corner, if it’s still there.


Read the original here.