W.S. Merwin calls the Poetry Crisis Line

COUNSELOR: Poetry Crisis Line, what is your emergency?

CALLER: Listen

COUNSELOR: That’s what I’m here for.

CALLER: with the night falling we are saying thank you

COUNSELOR: You’re welcome. For what?

CALLER: we are stopping on the bridges

COUNSELOR: Is there traffic behind you?

CALLER: to bow from the railings

COUNSELOR: Just don’t lean over too far, OK?

CALLER: we are running

COUNSELOR: On the railings?

CALLER: out of the glass rooms

COUNSELOR: Umm…

CALLER: with our mouths full of food

COUNSELOR: Are you trying to make me worry?

CALLER: to look at the sky

COUNSELOR: Why? What’s happening???

CALLER: and

COUNSELOR: They’re not bombing the parking lot with turkeys, are they?

CALLER: say

COUNSELOR: Because I’ve been through that once, and it was…uh…

CALLER: thank you

COUNSELOR: You’re welcome. But please understand. I can help talk you through a problem, but I can’t protect you from ev–

CALLER: we are standing by the water thanking it

COUNSELOR: Not too close, I hope?

CALLER: standing by the windows

COUNSELOR: Again, not too close?

CALLER: looking out / in our directions

COUNSELOR: Right. But not leaning out. Right?

CALLER: back from a series of hospitals

COUNSELOR: Umm…I’m not here to say I told you so, but…

CALLER: back from a mugging

COUNSELOR: What???

CALLER: after funerals

COUNSELOR: You got mugged at a funeral?

CALLER: we are saying

COUNSELOR: I know, but it’s a lot to take in.

CALLER: thank you

COUNSELOR: You’re welcome?

CALLER: after the news of the dead

COUNSELOR: You got mugged, at a funeral, for a newspaper?

CALLER: whether or not we knew them

COUNSELOR: You got mugged, at a funeral, for a newspaper, by someone you know?

CALLER: we are saying thank you

COUNSELOR: You’re welcome, but it really isn’t necessary. It’s my job to help.

CALLER: over telephones

COUNSELOR: Yes, that’s in the job description.

CALLER: we are saying thank you

COUNSELOR: You’re welcome! But is there anything I can do for you?

CALLER: in doorways

COUNSELOR: Wherever you are.

CALLER: and in the backs of cars

COUNSELOR: That’s starting to sound inappropriate.

CALLER: and in elevators

COUNSELOR: OK, really inappropriate.

CALLER: remembering wars

COUNSELOR: Are you having flashbacks? Did you serve?

CALLER: and the police at the door

COUNSELOR: Did you get served?

CALLER: and the beatings

COUNSELOR: What?

CALLER: on stairs

COUNSELOR: Wait—who beat you? Police? Enemy combatants? The mugger at the funeral?

CALLER: we are saying

COUNSELOR: You’re not. I mean maybe you are, but you’re saying so much that it’s hard to keep the story straight.

CALLER: thank you

COUNSELOR: You’re welcome. But–

CALLER: in the banks we are saying thank you / in the faces of the officials and the rich / and of all who will never change / we go on saying thank you thank you

COUNSELOR: Don’t you think maybe you’re taking this gratitude thing a little too far?

CALLER: with the animals dying around us / taking our feelings we are saying thank you

COUNSELOR: Or a lot too far?

CALLER: with the forests falling faster than the minutes / of our lives we are saying thank you

COUNSELOR: And yet…

CALLER: with the words going out like cells of a brain

COUNSELOR: Now we’re getting somewhere. What is killing those brain cells?

CALLER: with the cities growing over us / we are saying thank you faster and faster

COUNSELOR: Yes, I hear you. But–

CALLER: with nobody listening

COUNSELOR: I’m listening!

CALLER: we are saying thank you

COUNSELOR: Yes, I’m hearing you say that.

CALLER: thank you

COUNSELOR: I’m hearing you say it a lot.

CALLER: we are saying

COUNSELOR: I know.

CALLER: and waving

COUNSELOR: I didn’t know that. We’re on the phone.

CALLER: dark though it is

COUNSELOR: That is really dark, dude.