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.

Frank O’Hara calls the Poetry Crisis Line

COUNSELOR: Poetry Crisis Line, what is your emergency?

CALLER: I am not a painter,

COUNSELOR: How is that a problem for you, sir?

CALLER: I am a poet. 

COUNSELOR: I’m afraid there’s no cure for that.


COUNSELOR: I don’t know. I just don’t think that medical science has found a cure.

CALLER: I think I would rather be / a painter,

COUNSELOR: Are you sure, sir? Van Gogh was a painter, and he was miserable.

CALLER: but I am not.

COUNSELOR: Exactly! How are you feeling?

CALLER: Well, 

COUNSELOR: Excellent! Is there anything else I can help you with?

CALLER: for instance, Mike Goldberg / is starting a painting.

COUNSELOR: Good for him! Have you tried not making it about yourself?

CALLER: I drop in. 

COUNSELOR: Because sometimes, just letting yourself feel good for another person’s success can help with these feelings of envy.

CALLER: “Sit down and have a drink” he / says.


CALLER: I drink;

COUNSELOR: Don’t do that. You should never drink paint. Some people think it’s why Van Gogh was so miserable.

CALLER: we drink.

COUNSELOR: Well, Van Gogh didn’t actually drink the paint, but he may have put the ends of his brushes in his mouth while he was thinking, and he exposed himself to heavy metals in the pigments, and the chemicals in turpentine.

CALLER: I look / up. “You have SARDINES in it.”

COUNSELOR: That is one weird-ass cocktail.


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.

Sylvia Plath re-calls the Poetry Crisis Line

COUNSELOR: Poetry Crisis Line, what is your emergency?

CALLER: You do not do,

COUNSELOR: What don’t I do?

CALLER: you do not do / Any more,

COUNSELOR: What don’t I do any more of? Or anymore?

CALLER: black shoe

COUNSELOR: Is that like soft-shoe?

CALLER: In which I have lived

COUNSELOR: So, more like the old lady in a shoe? How much floor space?

CALLER: like a foot   

COUNSELOR: That’s tough. How long have you lived there?

CALLER: For thirty years,

COUNSELOR: So you can’t get out of the mortgage? Is there anywhere else you could go? Like maybe a vacation slipper?

CALLER: poor and white,   

COUNSELOR: Then… uh… boot camp?

CALLER: Barely daring to breathe or

COUNSELOR: I imagine it must really stink, living there.

CALLER: Achoo.

COUNSELOR: Gesundheit.

CALLER: Daddy, I have had to kill you.   

COUNSELOR: That seems like a lot to bear.

CALLER: You died before I had time——

COUNSELOR: Was that a relief?

CALLER: Marble-heavy,

COUNSELOR: So…still a Lizzie burden.

CALLER: a bag full of God,   

COUNSELOR: Are there angels pinned to it?

CALLER: Ghastly statue with one gray toe   

COUNSELOR: Was that toe statue in the living room? Of the shoe house?

CALLER: Big as a Frisco seal

COUNSELOR: So… in the kitchen with the Rice-A-Roni?


Click here to read the rest of “Daddy” by Sylvia Plath

Robert Frost calls the Poetry Crisis Line yet again

STAFFER: Poetry Crisis Line, what is your emergency?

CALLER: Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,

STAFFER: Isn’t that kind of dehumanizing? I mean, I think the wall is a wasteful solution to an imaginary problem, but when you start talking about people as things–

CALLER: That sends

STAFFER: The wrong message, I know, but–

CALLER: the frozen-

STAFFER: Did you just call me a snowflake?

CALLER: ground-swell under it,

STAFFER: A groundswell is right. And we’re just getting started.

CALLER: And spills the upper boulders in the sun;

STAFFER: Really? Over two million nonviolent protesters, but you want to focus on the few who showed up topl–

CALLER: And makes gaps

STAFFER: That gap is natural. Every woman has it, unless she’s wearing a bra that squishes them together.

CALLER: even two can pass abreast.

STAFFER: Yes, they usually come in pairs.

CALLER: The work of hunters is another thing:

STAFFER: Look, I have to call you out here. I think you’re defensively falling back on traditional gender roles.

CALLER: I have come after them and made repair

STAFFER: I know what that’s like. But once you start cleaning up after the patriarchy, it starts to become a full-time job.

CALLER: Where they have left not one stone on a stone,

STAFFER: Rock on

CALLER: But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,

STAFFER: Now you’re splitting hares.

CALLER: To please the yelping dogs.

STAFFER: But that’s what I’m saying–you’ll never please some people. They just want to bark bark bark bark / bark bark bark bark / until you can hear them all over the park.

CALLER: The gaps I mean,

STAFFER: Again with the cleavage. Wait–are you saying the protesters are the dogs?

CALLER: No one has seen them

STAFFER: Are you kidding? They were on all the news channels in their handcrafted hats.

CALLER: made

STAFFER: Fine, handMADE hats. But I think you’re splitting hairs again. Are you trying to distract me from what you just said about nobody seeing them?

CALLER: or heard them

STAFFER: Now that’s just nonsense. They were loud and proud, and the points they stated–

CALLER: made,

STAFFER: Yes, the points they made.

CALLER: But at spring mending-time we find them there.

STAFFER: Again with the gender roles.

CALLER: I let my neighbour know

STAFFER: Great! Spread the word.

CALLER: beyond the hill;

STAFFER: All over the world–not just Capitol Hill.

CALLER: And on a day we meet to walk the line

STAFFER: You’re coming out to march too? Wonderful!

CALLER: And set the wall between us once again.

STAFFER: Oh–so you’ll be at the counter protests? I’m sorry to hear that, but it is your right.

CALLER: We keep the wall between us as we go.

STAFFER: But that’s the problem, isn’t it? You can’t have an open discussion of the issues if you keep building walls.

CALLER: To each the boulders

STAFFER: That’s a whole different issue. When you talk to a woman you need to look her in the face. Don’t focus on her “boulders–”

CALLER: that have fallen

STAFFER: Now that’s just rude.

CALLER: to each.

STAFFER: Yes, much better. You need to talk to each person as an individual.

CALLER: And some are loaves

STAFFER: No. We’re all just people. Stop comparing us to things.

CALLER: and some so nearly balls

STAFFER: Look, if you think women are acting like men, that’s your problem, not theirs.

CALLER: We have to use a spell to make them balance:

STAFFER: There is no magical solution.

CALLER: “Stay where you are

STAFFER: You can’t just tell the protesters to stop.

CALLER: until our backs are turned!”

STAFFER: Or pretend you don’t see.

CALLER: We wear our fingers rough with handling them.

STAFFER: Now that’s really not OK.

CALLER: Oh, just another kind of out-door game,

STAFFER: No. Handling people roughly is not a game.

CALLER: One on a side.

STAFFER: What–like a duel?

CALLER: It comes to little more:

STAFFER: This is America. We don’t do trial by combat here. I mean, until His Orange Lordship appoints Chuck Norris to the Supreme Court.

CALLER: There where it is

STAFFER: Wait, he’s not planning to, is he?

CALLER: we do not need the wall:

STAFFER: No, we don’t. I just hope someone will tell the guy in power.

CALLER: He is all pine

STAFFER: Exactly! Pining for a time that never was…

CALLER: and I am apple orchard.

STAFFER: Yes. They tried to bury us, but we were seeds…

CALLER: My apple trees will never get across

STAFFER: Don’t be so pessimistic. Just keep talking until someone listens.

CALLER: And eat the cones

STAFFER: What, like the traffic cones? They’re way too rubbery. Bring a Clif bar or something.

CALLER: under his pines,

STAFFER: But pining isn’t the answer.

CALLER: I tell him.

STAFFER: You got to tell him? How did he react?

CALLER: He only says, “Good fences make good neighbours.”

STAFFER: Right. Leading by platitude.

CALLER: Spring is the mischief in me,

STAFFER: I’m not sure I can wait that long.

CALLER: and I wonder / If I could put a notion in his head:

STAFFER: Oh, would you? Please do.

CALLER: “Why do they make good neighbours?

STAFFER: That’s what you want to put in his head?

CALLER: Isn’t it / Where there are cows?

STAFFER: Aaaaand we’re back to cowboy diplomacy.

CALLER: But here there are no cows.

STAFFER: Exactly.

CALLER: Before I built a wall I’d ask to know / What I was walling in or walling out,

STAFFER: See, that makes sense.

CALLER: And to whom I was like to give offence.

STAFFER: I would think that was the basic standard. Why can’t some people figure that out?

CALLER: Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,

STAFFER: And we’re back to dehumanizing people.

CALLER: That wants it down.”

STAFFER: “She.” Or “He.” Not “That.” If you’ve got the President’s ear, you need to remind him that we’re talking about human beings.

CALLER: I could say “Elves” to him,

STAFFER: Yeah–you probably could.

CALLER: But it’s not elves exactly,

STAFFER: No. But he’d believe it.

CALLER: and I’d rather / He said it for himself.

STAFFER: Or Alec Baldwin. I could see Alec Baldwin saying it as him. “Elves.”

CALLER: I see him there

STAFFER: You can see that too, huh?

CALLER: Bringing a stone


CALLER: grasped firmly by the top

STAFFER: No, I meant on SNL. Was he also in Land of the Lost or something?

CALLER: In each hand,

STAFFER: Wait, are you talking about the president again? Each tiny hand?

CALLER: like an old-stone savage armed.

STAFFER: Yep, that sounds like him.

CALLER: He moves in darkness as it seems to me,

STAFFER: Yes, it seems that way to me, too.

CALLER: Not of woods only

STAFFER: Yeah, it was bad enough when it was just the national forests, but now they’re trying to take down all of our protections.

CALLER: and the shade of trees.

STAFFER: Even the trees are casting shade? Oh, you mean the alt-NPS Twitter feeds, don’t you?

CALLER: He will not go behind his father’s saying,

STAFFER: You mean his father’s money, right? Because it’s clear by now that he’ll say whatever he wants to.

CALLER: And he likes having thought of it so well

STAFFER: Yes, he certainly seems to.

CALLER:He says again, “Good fences make good neighbours.”

STAFFER: Well, platitudes can be comforting in times of crisis, but they can also distract you from the real issues. Perhaps you should focus on real ways to be a good neighbor, such as bringing over a plate of cookies when they move in, not blaming your neighbors for your problems, avoiding trade wars or twitter wars, and not threatening to invade them. . . you know, the basics.



Read the original here.