William Butler Yeats calls the Poetry Crisis Line

COUNSELOR: Poetry Crisis Line, what is your emergency?
CALLER: I will arise and go now,
COUNSELOR: Already? But you just called.
CALLER: and go to Innisfree,
COUNSELOR: That sounds nice. Business or pleasure?
CALLER: And a small cabin build there,
COUNSELOR: So more of a permanent move? What kind of a cabin?
CALLER: of clay
COUNSELOR: Like a cliff dwelling?
CALLER: and wattles
COUNSELOR: Uh… like the skin under a turkey’s neck?
CALLER: made;
COUNSELOR: Under a maid’s neck?
CALLER: Nine bean-rows will I have there,
COUNSELOR: Wait… like fava beans? And a nice chianti?
CALLER: a hive for the honey-bee,
COUNSELOR: So, mead…
CALLER: And live alone
COUNSELOR: That’s not helping.
CALLER: in the bee-loud glade.
COUNSELOR: They won’t silence the voices! Please, let me put you in touch with someone who can help!
[click here to read the original]

Shel Silverstein calls the Poetry Crisis Line

COUNSELOR: Poetry Crisis Line, what is your emergency?

CALLER: They’ve put a brassiere on the camel–


CALLER: She wasn’t dressed proper, you know.

COUNSELOR: I know, but–who would do that?

CALLER: They’ve put a brassiere on the camel

COUNSELOR: Victoria’s Secret?

CALLER: So that her humps wouldn’t show

COUNSELOR: So the other direction, then? Puritans? The Moral Majority? TV censors?

CALLER: And they’re making other presentable plans;

COUNSELOR: Should I be worried? To whom are they planning to present these presentable plans?

CALLER: They’re even insisting that pigs should wear pants.

COUNSELOR: As if blankets weren’t enough.

CALLER: They’ll dress up the ducks if we give them the chance


CALLER: Since they put a brassiere on the camel.

COUNSELOR: So it’s a one-upsmanship thing, like conceptual art? The last one wasn’t weird enough–what else can we do?

William Shakespeare calls the Poetry Crisis Line (as himself, this time)

COUNSELOR: Poetry Crisis Line, what is your emergency?

CALLER: My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;

COUNSELOR: In what way are they not like the sun? I mean, uh–

CALLER: Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;

COUNSELOR: I thought coral was more pinkish. Or if it dries out, then it turns white.

CALLER: If snow be white,

COUNSELOR: No, I was still talking about coral.


COUNSELOR: You brought it up, sir.

CALLER: then her breasts are dun;

COUNSELOR:  Done with what? Did she just wean a kid? Or are you–

CALLER: If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.

COUNSELOR: Now she sounds like a cyborg. Did you just call me to complain about your girlfriend’s looks?

CALLER: I have seen roses damasked, red and white,

COUNSELOR: Did she hear you complaining? Flowers might be a good start, but it sounds like you need to work on communication skills–and on reasonable expectations. You may want to talk to a couples counselor.

CALLER: But no such roses see I in her cheeks;

COUNSELOR: Or a face painter. I mean, if that’s what she’s into–

CALLER: And in some perfumes is there more delight

COUNSELOR: Have you asked her what she likes? Perfumes, or flowers, or face painting? What would she want to see or hear from you?

CALLER: Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.

COUNSELOR: No, I don’t think that’s something any woman would want to hear.

CALLER: I love to hear her speak,

COUNSELOR: That’s much better. And in the long run, it may be more important than how she looks.

CALLER: yet well I know  / That music hath a far more pleasing sound;

COUNSELOR: And we’re back to expectations. You can’t expect your girlfriend to be some goddess.

CALLER: I grant I never saw a goddess

COUNSELOR: Of course not. May I say something about expectations?


COUNSELOR: See, society sets up these lofty expectations that no one can really meet.

CALLER: My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground.


CALLER: And yet, by heaven,

COUNSELOR: So on heaven and earth at once? That’s not very common.

CALLER:  I think my love as rare

COUNSELOR: See, now you’re getting somewhere. You complain about the things you don’t like, but deep down you know she’s special. Like…uh, like…

CALLER: As any she belied with false compare

COUNSELOR: So she does it too, huh? I’ve seen that happen. It’s sad when women feel the need to compare themselves to others.

Richard Brautigan calls the Poetry Crisis Line

COUNSELOR: Poetry Crisis Line, what is your emergency?
CALLER: He wants to build you a house
COUNSELOR: He does? Who does? What kind of house? Wood? Brick? 3D printed?
CALLER: out of your own bones
CALLER: but / that’s where you’re living / any way!
COUNSELOR: Exactly. I mean–
CALLER: The next time he calls
COUNSELOR: Wait–you mean he’s called here before?
CALLER: you answer the telephone
COUNSELOR: Of course. That’s the job.
CALLER: with the / sound of your grandmother being / born.
COUNSELOR: Uh, I don’t think I was there for that. I mean, how–
CALLER: It was a twenty-three hour / labor
COUNSELOR: I think I’d remember a call that long.
CALLER: in 1894.
COUNSELOR: He must have me confused with somebody else. I only started here in August.
CALLER: He hangs / up.
COUNSELOR: Well, that’s his right, if it’s what he wants to do. Goodbye.





Charles Bukowski drunk dials the Poetry Crisis Line

STAFFER: Poetry Crisis Line, what is your emergency?
CALLER: dogs and angels are not / very different
STAFFER: Uh, OK. And you know this because…?
CALLER: I often go to this place to eat.
STAFFER: Right. Do they allow dogs there? Or angels? Do they … serve angels?
CALLER: about 2:30 in the afternoon
STAFFER: So it’s, like, a tea time special?
CALLER: because all the people who eat / there are particularly addled
STAFFER: Does it help calm them down, eating angels?
CALLER: simply glad to be alive and / eating baked beans
STAFFER: Oh good. You had me worried there. Or…are the beans just a side dish?
CALLER: near a plate glass window / which holds the heat
STAFFER: Yeah, nothing worse than cold beans and angels
CALLER: and doesn’t let the cars and / sidewalks inside
STAFFER: Um…is there a risk of the sidewalk coming inside? Don’t they end somewhere?
CALLER: we are allowed as much free / coffee as we can drink
STAFFER: As long as you have someplace safe to be. With a bathroom.
CALLER: and we sit and quietly drink
STAFFER: Is that what you like to do, then? You drink and you know things?
CALLER: the strong black coffee.
STAFFER: That’s a good thing to know. And a good thing to drink. Especially after the sidewalk comes knocking.
CALLER: it is good to be sitting someplace / in a world at 2:30 in the afternoon / without having the flesh ripped from your bones.
STAFFER: Yes, I enjoy that too. Two thirty, three o’clock, anytime–I’m always up for not having the flesh ripped from my bones.
CALLER: even / being addled, we know this.
STAFFER: It’d be hard to forget.
CALLER: nobody bothers us
STAFFER: I hope not. I mean, that would be a kind of a hard sell. “Excuse me, sir, do you mind if I come over and rip the flesh off your bones?”
CALLER: we bother nobody.
STAFFER: I think you’d know better.
CALLER: angels and dogs are not / very different
STAFFER: At all?
CALLER: at 2:30 in the afternoon.
STAFFER: So, um, are they more different at other times of day?
CALLER: I have my favorite table
STAFFER: Can you bring your dog there? … Would you want to?
STAFFER: Wait–can you bring an angel?
CALLER: after I have finished
STAFFER: What–so you’re supposed to leave your angel outside, chained to a fire hydrant while you eat? Can you just smuggle him (or her) in on the head of a pin?
CALLER: I stack the plates, saucers,
STAFFER: So, lots of little places an angel can hide in.
CALLER: the cup,
STAFFER: A great place to hide something small. Just cover it with your hand when the waiter comes past, so the angel doesn’t get scalded by the free coffee.
CALLER: the silverware
STAFFER: That’s not so great–you’d have to eat the baked beans with your hands.
CALLER: neatly–
STAFFER: Is that even possible?
CALLER: my offering to the luck–
STAFFER: That would take a lot of luck, eating baked beans without silverware. Then again, if you’ve got an angel hiding under your spoon…
CALLER: and that sun / working good / all up and / down / inside the / darkness / here
STAFFER: It sounds like you’ve got the crisis under control, sir. Just stay sober, and you should be fine.


From the poem “A Plate Glass Window” in Love Is a Dog from Hell

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?