John Berryman calls the Poetry Crisis Line

STAFFER: Poetry Crisis Line, what is your emergency?
CALLER: Life, friends, is boring.
STAFFER: Excuse me?
CALLER: We must not say so.
STAFFER: No, it’s OK. Whatever’s on your mind, you can tell me.
CALLER: After all, the sky flashes, the great sea yearns.
STAFFER: Were you caught in a storm?
CALLER: we ourselves flash and yearn,
STAFFER: So it’s a metaphorical storm? That’s OK. We handle a lot of metaphorical problems.
CALLER: and moreover my mother told me as a boy
STAFFER: We get a lot of those calls too.
CALLER: (repeatingly)
STAFFER: Like you wouldn’t believe.
CALLER: Ever to confess you’re bored–
STAFFER: I didn’t say that, I just–
CALLER:  –means you have no / Inner Resources.
STAFFER: We are short-staffed at the moment, but–
CALLER: I conclude now I have no inner resources–
STAFFER: You may be stronger than you think.
CALLER:–because I am heavy bored.
STAFFER: Wait–you called the Crisis Line because you’re bored?
CALLER: Peoples bore me.
STAFFER: Have you tried a good book?
CALLER: Literature bores me.
STAFFER: All of it?
CALLER: –especially great literature.
STAFFER: Ah yes, Bukowski once wrote about–
CALLER: Henry bores me, with his plights and gripes.
STAFFER: Right, no Bukowski.
CALLER: As bad as achilles.
STAFFER: No Virgil either…
CALLER: who loves people and valiant art, which bores me.
STAFFER: Have you tried going for a walk?
CALLER: And the tranquil hills–
STAFFER: Going out to a club?
CALLER: & gin
STAFFER: You don’t have to drink. You could go to a show.
CALLER: look like a drag
STAFFER: If that’s the kind of show you’re into.
CALLER: And somehow a dog.
STAFFER: I love dogs!
CALLER: has taken itself & its tail considerably away
STAFFER: You could try calling to him.
CALLER: into mountains or sea or sky
STAFFER: The ones that were flashing and yearning? Do you know the dog’s name? If not, you could just try Here puppy puppy
CALLER: Leaving behind
STAFFER: Here, puppy puppy
CALLER: Me, wag.
STAFFER: Who’s a good boy? Who’s a good boy?

e.e. cummings calls the poetry crisis line

counselor: poetry crisis line, what is your emergency?

caller: the boys i mean are not refined

counselor: how is this your problem?

caller: they go with girls who buck and bite

counselor: and you disapprove? or were you bitten?

caller: they do not give a fuck for luck

counselor: personally, i’d be more concerned about blood-borne pathogens

caller: they hump them thirteen times a night

counselor: do they use protection?

caller: one hangs a hat upon her tit

counselor: not sure what that would protect her from.

caller: one carves a cross in her behind

counselor: that might protect her from vampires.

caller: they do not give a shit for wit

counselor: i’m not sure that’s relevant. why are we whispering?

caller: the boys i mean are not refined

counselor: are you afraid they might do something if they hear you?

caller: they come with girls who bite and buck

counselor: were you bitten? you never answered that.

caller: who cannot read and cannot write

counselor: wait–are they deliberately keeping them in a feral state?

caller: who

counselor: the girls who bite and buck and

caller: laugh

counselor: that sounds a little better. does the laughter sound joyous, or nervous, or–

caller: like they will fall apart

counselor: emotionally?

caller: and masturbate with dynamite

counselor: oh.

caller: the boys i mean

counselor: wait, the boys are the ones using dynamite to…uh…how is that even possible? i mean, unless they are…uh…

caller: are not refined

counselor: that’s putting it mildly.

caller: they cannot chat of that and this

counselor: to be honest, i’m having a hard time talking about this, too.

caller: they do not give a fart

counselor: i’d be afraid to pass gas, too, if i had explosives up my–

caller: for art

counselor: not for art or love or money.

caller: they kill like you would take a piss.

counselor: never mind “like”; they could kill *where* i take a–

caller: they speak whatever’s on their mind

counselor: who? the boys? the girls? the dynamite?

caller: they do whatever’s in their pants

counselor: apparently.

caller: the boys i mean are not refined

counselor: so you keep saying. but this sounds a bit more serious than using the wrong fork for the salad course.

caller: they shake the mountains when they dance.

counselor: what? all that, and you were just calling in a noise complaint?

Hamlet calls the Poetry Crisis Line part 3

Find part 1 here

and part 2 here


COUNSELOR #3: Poetry Crisis Line, Unrequited Love Division. Do you want Boy-Girl, Boy-Boy, Girl-Girl, May-December, Rich-Poor, Families Each Alike in Dignity…

CALLER: That patient merit of the unworthy takes,

COUNSELOR #3: Ex is seeing a freeloader. Got it. Transferring you now.

COUNSELOR #4: Poetry Crisis Line, Unrequited Love Division. Moocher Desk. How may I help you?

CALLER: When he himself might his quietus make / With a bare bodkin?

COUNSELOR #4: Isn’t that how most people make it? Unless they’re in a hurry.

CALLER: who would fardels bear,

COUNSELOR #4 [frantically paging through dictionary]: Uh….that’s a good question. Who would fardels bear?

CALLER: To grunt and sweat under—

COUNSELOR #4: Hang on–were you watching them do it?

CALLER:  a weary life,

COUNSELOR #4: Now wait. Whatever you’re feeling now, it’s not worth dying–

CALLER: But that the dread of something after death,

COUNSELOR #4: What, like a bad epitaph?

CALLER: The undiscover’d country

COUNSELOR #4: A bad Star Trek movie?

CALLER:  from whose bourn

COUNSELOR #4: I haven’t seen the Bourne movies yet, but–

CALLER: No traveller returns,

COUNSELOR#4: Wait, don’t give away the ending.

CALLER:  puzzles the will

COUNSELOR #4: So it’s one of those movies where he has to solve a puzzle before he can inherit? Wait, why are we talking about movies?

CALLER: And makes us rather bear those ills we have / Than fly to others that we know not of?

COUNSELOR #4: So if you frame it in movies, you don’t have to face your issues directly?

CALLER: Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;

COUNSELOR #4: You’re right. Everyone does it sometimes.

CALLER: And thus the native hue of resolution / Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,

COUNSELOR #4: But then if everyone does, it,  maybe it isn’t so cowardly as you say.

CALLER:  And enterprises of great pith and moment / With this regard their currents turn awry,

COUNSELOR #4: Well, it’s better to face things obliquely than not at all.

CALLER: And lose the name of action.

COUNSELOR #4: I understand. You don’t want to call it “action” if you’re not facing it directly. But even Perseus used a mirror when he slew Medusa.

CALLER: –Soft you now!

COUNSELOR #4: What? Did you just shush me?

CALLER: The fair Ophelia! [CALLER sets down phone and wanders off]

COUNSELOR #4: Hello?

CALLER:  Nymph, in thy orisons / Be all my sins remember’d.

COUNSELOR #4: Hello? Are you still there?

Robert Frost Re-calls the Poetry Crisis Line

COUNSELOR: Poetry Crisis Line, how may I help you?

CALLER: Whose woods these are I think I know.

COUNSELOR: That information should be on file in the County Clerk’s office

CALLER: His house is in the village though;

COUNSELOR: Do you need to notify him of a problem? A fire? Downed tree? Strange beast slouching toward Bethlehem?

CALLER: He will not see me stopping here

COUNSELOR: Hang on–what are you planning to do?

CALLER: To watch his woods fill up with snow.

COUNSELOR: They’ve been doing that a lot lately, haven’t they?

The Queen of Cheese Presents: The Ballad of Lady Mondegreen

(with apologies to Jimi Hendrix, Bruce Springsteen, Manfred Mann and the Earth Band, Seals and Crofts, Franz Xaver Gruber, Elton John, John Fogerty and Creedence Clearwater Revival, Pharrell Williams, Hootie and the Blowfish, Fanny J. Crosby, Bob Dylan, and Anonymous.

Also, Round John Virgin’s loathsome attitudes toward the LGBT community do not even remotely reflect the views of the author. Alas, for the jokes about hearing impairment I have no recourse but to plead fidelity to the source material.)



Ye high lamps, ye low lamps,

Ye bluish hallowgenes,

Have you, miss, heard the story

Of Lady Mondegreen?


If you have heard her story,

You’ve prob’ly heard it wrong.

If you have not, don’t worry;

Feel free to sing along.


She loved the Earl of Moray,

‘E was a ruddy ‘eel.

She said it was electric,

The way ’e made her feel,


But still, she listened poorly

And never asked him why

When he would say, “Excuse me

While I kiss this guy.”


In the blinding light of midnight,

When ladies keep their hearts

Wrapped up like products they employ

To lave their nether parts,


The Earl and Lady Mondegreen

Were strolling in the pines.

A summer breeze was blowing

‘Twixt the jazzmen and the mimes.


The wrathful Round John Virgin

Rode out that silent night,

Burning all the trees up where he rode,

A rocket-man in flight.


Said John, “My Lady Mondegreen,

It cut me like a knife

When you announced that I would find

A fat man on my wife.”


Said she, “I ne’er said aught about

A fat banana knight

But only tried to tell you there’s

A bathroom on the right–


“A place where you can crap alone,

A room without a roof,

To crap alone if you should feel

That happiness is truth.”


Said John, “I want to love you–

The bear says I can’t,

This cross-eyed brute who walks with you

But lays with other men.”


John Virgin drew his rapier

And said, “En garde, you fool.”

Lady Mondegreen said, “Nay,

That is no garden tool,


“And why, sir, do you brandish it

When ladies are about?”

“You brand of WHAT?” Round John was heard

To furiously shout.


And gladly, then, the cross-eyed bear

Stepped up to her defense.

The ants were blowing in the wind,

The ants, they were, my friends.


And Round John Virgin on that night

Was slaughtered by the bear

But not before he’d sliced in half

The Earl of Moray’s ear.


I understand the tale I tell

May sound a little queer,

But every word was verified

By someone who was there.


Ye high lambs, ye low lambs,

Ye sheep of average height,

Did wool get in your ears afore

The tale I told tonight?

Dorothy Parker re-calls the Poetry Crisis Line

COUNSELOR: Poetry Crisis Line, what is your emergency?

CALLER: Razors pain you;

COUNSELOR: Did you cut yourself shaving? Is it a minor bleed or–

CALLER: Rivers are damp;

COUNSELOR: Right. A serious flow. Can you think clearly and follow directions?

CALLER: Acids stain you;

COUNSELOR: Are you on acid now, ma’am?

CALLER: And drugs cause cramp.

COUNSELOR: I wouldn’t worry about the cramps, just find something to stop the bleeding.

CALLER: Guns aren’t lawful;

COUNSELOR: No, I said to _stop_ the bleeding…

CALLER: Nooses give;

COUNSELOR: Also not great. Unless the bleeding is severe enough that you need a tourniquet.

CALLER: Gas smells awful;

COUNSELOR: I don’t know who farted, but that really should not be your concern right now.

CALLER: You might as well live.

COUNSELOR: I like your attitude. Say, is there any chance I might call you back and put you on the line with Sylvia Plath, the next time she calls?


COUNSELOR: Hello? Are you there?



Sappho calls the Poetry Crisis Line

COUNSELOR: Poetry Crisis Line, what is your emergency?

CALLER: Say what you like about Charaxos,

COUNSELOR: I’m sorry, ma’am, but at the Poetry Crisis Line we care about confidentiality.

CALLER: that’s a fellow with a fat-bellied ship

COUNSELOR: I’m sorry—do you mean an actual boat, or are you talking about—

CALLER: always in some port or other.

COUNSELOR: I think I get your meaning.

CALLER: What does Zeus care,

COUNSELOR: It’s none of his business.

CALLER: or the rest of his gang?

COUNSELOR: Or theirs. And if it is his business, it’s still none of theirs.

CALLER: Now you’d like me on my knees,

COUNSELOR: And that’s your business. I’m not here to judge.

CALLER: crying out to Hera,

COUNSELOR: Well, I suppose what Zeus gets up to is her business.

CALLER: “Blah, blah, blah,

COUNSELOR: Not that I’d blab. Like I said, we care about privacy.

CALLER: bring him home safe and free of warts,”

COUNSELOR: That may be an exception to medical confidentiality; I’m not sure. It’s not something I’m required to report.

CALLER: or blubbering, “Wah, wah, wah, thank you, / thank you, for curing my liver condition.”

COUNSELOR: Liver warts? I’ve never heard of that.

CALLER: Good grief, gods do what they like.

COUNSELOR: I guess so. Are you sure you don’t mean liverwurst? You know, the sausage?

CALLER: They call down hurricanes with a whisper

COUNSELOR: You mean like the vacuum cleaner? Or the app on your phone?

CALLER: or send off a tsunami the way you would a love letter.

COUNSELOR: Neither rain nor sleet will stop it.

CALLER: If they have a whim, they make some henchmen / fix it up,

COUNSELOR: That sounds like a dirty job.

CALLER: like those idiots in the Iliad.

COUNSELOR: Did they bring a Whisper in the Trojan Horse?

CALLER: A puff of smoke,

COUNSELOR: They brought a bong?

CALLER: a little fog,

COUNSELOR: It just seems like it might blow their cover. Even if it is on little cat feet.

CALLER: away goes the hero,

COUNSELOR: Right. That’s what they were waiting for.

CALLER: it’s happily ever after.

COUNSELOR: For the Greeks it was. For the Trojans, not so much.

CALLER: As for Larichos,

COUNSELOR: Which side was he on?

CALLER: that lay-a-bed lives for the pillow.

COUNSELOR: So…not getting up before sunrise to get stoned in a wooden horse.

CALLER: If for once / he’d get off his ass, he might make something of himself.

COUNSELOR: Has he tried visualization exercises?

CALLER: Then from that reeking sewer of my life

COUNSELOR: Yes, like that. But instead of a reeking sewer, try thinking of your life as a clear, flowing fountain.

CALLER: I might haul up a bucket of spring water.

COUNSELOR: Well, then.



Read the original (in translation) here.

Edna St. Vincent Millay calls the Poetry Crisis Line

STAFFER: Poetry Crisis Line, what is your emergency?

CALLER: Love has gone and left me

COUNSELOR: I’m sorry to hear that.

CALLER: and the days are all alike;

STAFFER: It can feel like that for a while after a breakup.

CALLER: Eat I must,

STAFFER: Yes, that’s important.

CALLER: and sleep I will, —

STAFFER: Yes, that too.

CALLER: and would that night were here!

STAFFER: Night is good for sleeping, but if you’re tired now, you can just–

CALLER: But ah! —

STAFFER: Are you ok? What happened?

CALLER: to lie awake and hear the slow hours strike!

STAFFER: Oh. That can be rough.

CALLER: Would that it were day again! —

STAFFER: What? But you just said–

CALLER:  with twilight near!

STAFFER: Make up your mind, girl.

CALLER: Love has gone and left me

STAFFER: Oh, right. Sorry for being impatient.

CALLER: and I don’t know what to do;

STAFFER: Eat, sleep. Those are the big ones. Breathing is also pretty nifty.

CALLER: This or that or what you will is all the same to me;

STAFFER: I tend to go for comfort foods after a breakup. Grilled cheese. Chicken soup. Ice cream straight out of the carton…

CALLER: But all the things that I begin I leave before I’m through, —

STAFFER: You don’t have to finish the whole tube of cookie dough; just make sure to eat something. [reaches down under the desk]

CALLER: There’s little use in anything as far as I can see.

STAFFER [comes up from the desk with a tub of ice cream and a large spoon]: I know it feels like that now, but–

CALLER: Love has gone and left me, —

STAFFER: Yes, I know–

CALLER: and the neighbors knock and borrow,

STAFFER [eats a large spoonful of ice cream]: What, like a cup of sugar, or like your lawnmower and your car? [swallows] Never mind, it’s good to have people around.

CALLER: And life goes on

STAFFER [eats ice cream]: That’s good.

CALLER: forever

STAFFER: No, I’m pretty sure that–

CALLER: like the gnawing of a mouse, —

STAFFER: Huh. You could get a cat? [eats ice cream]

CALLER: And to-morrow and to-morrow and to-morrow

STAFFER: Wait, I know this one! “Creeps in its petty pace from day to day…” [grabs a bottle of vodka from a desk drawer and takes a swig]

CALLER:  and to-morrow

STAFFER: No, that’s one extra. I’m pretty sure there’s only three.

CALLER: There’s this little street

STAFFER: You don’t sound very Street. [eats ice cream] but you have one more tomorrow than Macbeth… Or, come to think of it… [drinks vodka] …did Macbeth have any tomorrows left? I mean, he was already under siege by then, right? [Eats ice cream]

CALLER:  and this little house.

STAFFER [holding a sunbonnet in one hand]: Little House? I thought we were doing Shakespeare. [Puts down sunbonnet, picks up a potted plant in a miniature kilt. Moves plant like an improvised puppet, while talking with a fake Scottish accent] ’Til Birnam Wood be come to Dunsinane. [drinks]

CALLER [stares off into space and says nothing.]

STAFFER [to plant in kilt]: Have fun storming the castle! [drinks]

Julius Caesar calls the Poetry Crisis Line

COUNSELOR: Poetry Crisis Line, what is your emergency?


COUNSELOR: Did you call just to laugh at us?

CAESAR: Who calls?

COUNSELOR: You did, sir.

CASCA: Bid every noise be still: peace yet again!

COUNSELOR: Wait—are you on speakerphone?

CAESAR: Who is it in the press that calls on me?

COUNSELOR: With reporters? We respect your privacy sir, but we can’t stop them from publishing if you include them on the call.

CAESAR: I hear a tongue, shriller than the music,

COUNSELOR: On your end, or on mine?

CAESAR: Cry ‘Caesar!’

COUNSELOR: This is the Poetry Crisis Line, sir. If you’re calling to order a salad, you have the wrong number.

CAESAR: Speak;

COUNSELOR: I’m here to listen to you, sir.

CAESAR: Caesar is turn’d to hear.

COUNSELOR: But if I’m listening to you, and you’re listening to me, who’s going to talk?

SOOTHSAYER: Beware the ides of March.

COUNSELOR: I’m sorry?

CAESAR: What man is that?

COUNSELOR: I don’t know. Do you? I mean, I respect your privacy, sir. And his.

BRUTUS: A soothsayer bids you beware the ides of March.

COUNSELOR: Right. What’s an ide?

Margaret Hasse calls the Poetry Crisis Line

COUNSELOR: Poetry Crisis Line, what is your emergency?

CALLER: Blue numbers on my bedside clock

COUNSELOR: Are they supposed to be some other color?

CALLER: tell I forgot to change the hour.

COUNSELOR: Right. Are you late for work?

CALLER: This sets routines on haywire.

COUNSELOR: I can imagine. So how does that make you feel?

CALLER: Like a domestic goat

COUNSELOR: You want to bang your head into things?

CALLER: staked / to its circle of earth.

COUNSELOR: That’s always puzzled me. I mean, they eat weeds that can wreck a lawnmower, so what stops a goat from chewing through a rope?

CALLER: I don’t do well untethered.

COUNSELOR: So it’s a personal choice not to bite off the rope?

CALLER: I have no hunger for early dinner,

COUNSELOR: I just meant to bite through it—you don’t have to eat the whole thing.


Based on “Day after Daylight Savings” by Margaret Hasse