Poets Answer an Age-Old Question: Why did the chicken cross the road? [Part 1]

Q: Why did the chicken cross the road?


William Shakespeare

To cross or not to cross—that is the question!
Whether ‘tis nobler in the coop to suffer
The pecks and scratches of aggressive chickens
Or set foot upon a dusty roadway
And so, with your toes spread, cross it.

Walt Whitman

O chicken, my chicken
The fearful path is wide
But still you walked across the road
To reach the other side.

Emily Dickinson

Because I could not cross the road
A chicken crossed for me
And pecked the doorbell that would ring
Apartment number three.

Walt Whitman calls the Poetry Crisis Line—Part II

(Read Part I here.)

CALLER: Do you see O my brothers and sisters?
COUNSELOR: No, sir, we’re on the phone. I don’t see anything where you are.
CALLER: It is not chaos or death —
COUNSELOR: I’m glad to hear it—but I’d still like you to let me call you an ambulance.
CALLER: it is form,
COUNSELOR: Are you sure? Your scansion is all over the place.
CALLER: union,
COUNSELOR: I’m glad someone is protecting your rights. But–
CALLER: plan —
COUNSELOR: Wait—you meant for this to happen?
CALLER: it is eternal life — it is Happiness.
COUNSELOR: Please, sir—don’t go to the light. Stay with me now.
CALLER: The past and present wilt —
COUNSELOR: The past doesn’t matter. But please hang on in the present. Remember to breathe. Feel the air in your lungs.
CALLER: I have fill’d them, emptied them,
COUNSELOR: Good! Breathe in, breathe out.
CALLER: And proceed to fill my next fold of the future.
COUNSELOR: Exactly. The future is yours to make.
CALLER: Listener up there! what have you to confide to me?
COUNSELOR: No, sir. That’s not how it works. I’m here to listen.
CALLER: Look in my face
COUNSELOR: I can’t do that sir. This is an anonymous call.
CALLER: while I snuff the sidle of evening,
COUNSELOR: Now hold in—that doesn’t mean it’s OK for you to go around snuffing people.
CALLER: (Talk honestly,
COUNSELOR: I mean it!
CALLER: no one else hears you,
COUNSELOR: I know it’s just us, but I’ll still stand by what I said.
CALLER: and I stay only a minute longer.)
COUNSELOR: Please hang in there, sir.
CALLER: Do I contradict myself?
COUNSELOR: I don’t think so.
CALLER: Very well then I contradict myself,
COUNSELOR: In what way, sir?
CALLER: (I am large,
COUNSELOR: It’s OK sir. You don’t need to worry about your weight.
CALLER: I contain multitudes.)
COUNSELOR: Or what people say about it.
CALLER: I concentrate toward them that are nigh,
COUNSELOR: That’s good. You can’t expect to please everyone. Start with those who are closest.
CALLER: I wait on the door-slab.
COUNSELOR: I haven’t sent the ambulance yet, sir.
CALLER: Who has done his day’s work?
COUNSELOR: I’m trying, but you haven’t told me where you are.
CALLER: who will soonest be through with his supper?
COUNSELOR: I don’t know who’s on call, sir.
CALLER: Who wishes to walk with me?
COUNSELOR: I don’t know, but they will come if you tell me where you are.
CALLER: Will you speak before I am gone?
COUNSELOR: That’s what I’m trying to do, sir.
CALLER: will you prove already too late?
COUNSELOR: I hope not. Please stay with me.

Walt Whitman calls the Poetry Crisis Line – Part I

COUNSELOR: Poetry Crisis Line, what is your emergency?
CALLER: There is that in me —
COUNSELOR: Could you be more specific?
CALLER: I do not know what it is —
COUNSELOR: Could you give me a general category? Like a gallstone, or a foreign object, or a hankering for pad thai?
CALLER: but I know it is in me.
COUNSELOR: Right. How?
CALLER:Wrench’d and sweaty — calm and cool then my body becomes,
COUNSELOR: That sounds like you may be going into shock, sir. Could you tell me where–
CALLER: I sleep —
COUNSELOR: Please don’t go to sleep, sir. Not until I can dispatch an ambulance to your location.
CALLER:I sleep long.
COUNSELOR: Before you sleep, could you tell me your location?
CALLER: I do not know it —
COUNSELOR: Maybe we could start with a cross-street?
CALLER: it is without name —
COUNSELOR: Uh, does your phone have a locator? Can you share your location?
CALLER: it is a word unsaid,
COUNSELOR: That’s right—you don’t need to say anything, just click on Share Location.
CALLER: It is not in any dictionary,
COUNSELOR: No, don’t open the dictionary—Share Location. It’s–
CALLER: utterance,
COUNSELOR: Good idea—ask Siri.
CALLER: symbol.
COUNSELOR: No, emojis won’t help.
CALLER: Something it swings on
COUNSELOR: Tindr really won’t help.
CALLER: more than the earth I swing on,
COUNSELOR: So you’ve opened the GPS? Good. Can you tell it–
COUNSELOR: No, don’t drive anywhere—not in your condition. Just tell it to share your location.
CALLER: the creation
CALLER: is the friend whose embracing awakes me.
COUNSELOR: There’s a friend with you? Can you put him on?
CALLER: Perhaps I might tell more.
COUNSELOR: That’s fine if you want to talk, but I need to know where to send the ambulance.
CALLER: Outlines!
COUNSELOR: Black outlines? Or more like auras?
CALLER: I plead for my brothers and sisters.
COUNSELOR: I think you need to worry about yourself now, sir.