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.

Allen Ginsberg calls the Poetry Crisis Line

COUNSELOR: Poetry Crisis Line, how may I help you?
CALLER: I saw the best minds of my generation …
COUNSELOR: Are you sure? I mean, how can you tell?
CALLER: …destroyed by madness…
COUNSELOR: That is sad. Mental health issues can be very difficult.
CALLER: …starving…
COUNSELOR: Hunger is also a bigger problem than most people realize.
CALLER: …hysterical…
COUNSELOR: No, sir, I don’t find it at all amusing.
CALLER: …naked…
COUNSELOR: And I don’t care who you’ve seen naked.
CALLER: …dragging themselves through the negro streets…
COUNSELOR: Excuse me?
CALLER: …at dawn…
COUNSELOR: I wasn’t asking when; I just–I don’t know where to start with that. First off, the term is African American–
CALLER: …looking for–
COUNSELOR: –unless you’re talking about the streets themselves. Then it’s OK to say blacktop.
CALLER: –an angry fix…
COUNSELOR: Sometimes it’s appropriate to be angry; it’s not always the anger that needs to be fixed.
CALLER: …angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night, who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat up smoking in the supernatural darkness of cold-water flats floating across the tops of cities contemplating jazz,
COUNSELOR: Well why didn’t you say so? Transferring you to the Stream of Consciousness Desk.



Read the original here.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge calls the Poetry Crisis Line

COUNSELOR: Poetry Crisis Line, what is your emergency?

CALLER: In Xanadu did Kubla Khan / A stately pleasure-dome decree:

COUNSELOR: No sir, Khan was in Star Trek II; Xanadu starred Olivia Newton-John.

CALLER: Where Alph,

COUNSELOR: ALF was only on TV, sir. I don’t know if his planet was in the Federation.

CALLER: the sacred river, ran

COUNSELOR: –through it?

CALLER: Through caverns measureless to man

COUNSELOR: I think that was in Tremors. Did you just call me to ask about movie trivia?

Elizabeth Bishop calls the Poetry Crisis Line

COUNSELOR: Poetry Crisis Line, what is your emergency?

CALLER: The art of losing isn’t hard to master;

COUNSELOR: But would you want to?

CALLER: so many things seem filled with the intent / to be lost

COUNSELOR: So it’s conceptual art? Or more like, a gallery display of missing things?

CALLER: that

COUNSELOR: Wait—would that also be conceptual art?

CALLER: their loss is no disaster.

COUNSELOR: I’ve never been into conceptual art either.

CALLER: Lose something every day.

COUNSELOR: So do you start with socks and cell phones, and work your way up to extra pounds or a guy in 10 days?

CALLER: Accept the fluster

COUNSELOR: You lost a fluster?

CALLER: of lost door keys,

COUNSELOR: Now I’ve lost my train of thought.

CALLER: the hour badly spent.

COUNSELOR: Were you looking for your fluster? What is a fluster, anyway? Some sort of petticoat?

CALLER: The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

COUNSELOR: So you said.

CALLER: Then practice

COUNSELOR: How many hours a week do you practice losing? Or do you mean like practicing a–

CALLER: losing

COUNSELOR: –religion?

CALLER: farther,

COUNSELOR: Did you look in the corner? Maybe in the spotlight?

CALLER: losing faster:

COUNSELOR: If you lose too fast, it can be hard to keep it off. That’s why those fad diets, like

CALLER: places,

COUNSELOR: South Beach

CALLER: and names,


CALLER: and where it was

COUNSELOR: Where what was? The weight?

CALLER: you meant / to travel.

COUNSELOR: Uh, from my hips to my chest?

CALLER: None of these will bring disaster.

COUNSELOR: I hope not.

CALLER: I lost my mother’s watch.

COUNSELOR: Was she watching? When you lost her watch?

CALLER: And look!

COUNSELOR: So she watched you lose her watch, and it was still lost?

CALLER: my last,

COUNSELOR: So you’re retiring?

CALLER: or / next-to-last,

COUNSELOR: Or thinking of it? It can be hard to quit something you’ve put so much time into.


COUNSELOR: So what’s the biggest thing you ever lost?

CALLER: three loved houses

COUNSELOR: That’s impressive. And you don’t know where they gone?

CALLER: went.

COUNSELOR: Sorry—I was excited. Guess I lost my grammar.

CALLER: The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

COUNSELOR: So you say, but I’m impressed. I mean, you can’t just lose three houses in the washing machine.

CALLER: I lost two cities,

COUNSELOR: What, like Atlantis?

CALLER: lovely ones.

COUNSELOR: Like, um, Yerevan?


COUNSELOR: Did you try looking behind the foothills?

CALLER: vaster,

COUNSELOR: Behind the mountains?

CALLER: some realms

COUNSELOR: Behind countries?

CALLER: I owned,

COUNSELOR: You owned your own realms and you lost them? How big were these realms? Like the space between–

CALLER: two rivers,

COUNSELOR: Right. And how long were the rivers? A couple of miles?

CALLER: a continent.

COUNSELOR: Now that takes talent. And no one’s heard of it? Did the press come to interview you?

CALLER: I miss them,

COUNSELOR: And they don’t come back?


COUNSELOR: So how do you lose a realm, anyway? Earthquake? Tsunami?

CALLER: it wasn’t a disaster.

COUNSELOR: How, then?

CALLER: —Even losing you

COUNSELOR: What? I’m still here.

CALLER: (the joking voice,

COUNSELOR: No, I take you seriously, I’m just blown away.

CALLER: a gesture / I love)

COUNSELOR: So if you love it so much, why are you thinking of giving it up?

CALLER: I shan’t have lied.

COUNSELOR: I didn’t say you had. It’s just—

CALLER: It’s evident

COUNSELOR: But if it’s evident, how is it lost? Is it, like, hiding in plain sight?

CALLER: the art of losing’s not too hard to master

COUNSELOR: Are you sure it doesn’t just seem that way to you?

CALLER: though it may look like

COUNSELOR: Exactly! It seems easy to you, but that may be because it’s easy for you.

CALLER: (Write it!)

COUNSELOR: Write what? Like a poem?

CALLER: like disaster.

COUNSELOR: So, a screenplay? Like Dante’s Peak? Or…um… Sharknado?



Read the original here.

The Queen of Cheese Presents: Shakespeare’s Choose-Your-Own-Adventure

by David Sklar
Originally published in McSweeney’s Internet Tendency


If meeting three strange ladies in the swamp
Seems ample cause for murthering the king
To take his crown, turn to page 86.

If this seems kind of sketchy, turn to 12.

– – –

If thou slay’st Claudius while he is praying—
A villain kills your father, and, for that,
You, his sole son, do this same villain send
To heaven, turn the page to 93.

If thou postpon’st the act until such time
As he is drunk asleep, or in his rage,
Or in th’incestuous pleasure of his bed,
So that his soul may be as damned and black
As hell, whereto it goes, turn to page 5.

– – –

If cowards die a thousand times, but thou
Prefer’st to die but once, turn to page 9.

If dying does not bother thee, so long
As thou surviv’st it, turn to 42.

– – –

If, rather than stand prisoner in Rome,
Thou press the venom’d asp against thy breast
Then shalt thou turn the page to 17.

If thou prefer’st to hug a fluffy cat
Then turn instead to page 108.

– – –

If, after being shipwrack’d thou proceed’st
To take thy brother’s name, and don his clothes,
And swagger like a man, turn to page 4.

If trousers please thee not, turn to 16.

– – –

If, having found fair Juliet in her tomb,
Thou dost set up thy everlasting rest,
And take th’apothecary’s lethal draught
To shake the yoke of inauspicious stars
From thy world-wearied flesh, turn to page 9.

If thou prefer’st to wait ten minutes, turn
To page 117 instead.

Khaled Mattawa calls the Poetry Crisis Line

COUNSELOR: Poetry Crisis Line, what is your emergency?

CALLER: My mother forgets to feed her animals

COUNSELOR: Is there someone who can feed them for her?

CALLER: because it’s only fair.

COUNSELOR: Fair or not, the animals have to be fed.

CALLER: She rushes to them

COUNSELOR: Oh, good.

CALLER: when / she hears hoarse roosters crowing

COUNSELOR: Don’t they do that at daybreak? How early does she feed her animals? Or forget to?

CALLER: and billy goats butting

COUNSELOR: Are you sure they’re not bluffing? Or gruffing? Is there a bridge?

CALLER: over

COUNSELOR: a troll?

CALLER: a last straw.

COUNSELOR: I was only asking.

CALLER: This month the moon becomes a princess.

COUNSELOR: She does! Um… why did you call her the moon? Is that a crack about her butt?

CALLER: The stars fan her,

COUNSELOR: I’m a fan too. I loved her in Suits.

CALLER: Jupiter pours cups of wine,

COUNSELOR: No, that’s Bacchus. Jupiter is in charge of—you don’t think it will rain, do you?

CALLER: Mars sings

COUNSELOR: Shouldn’t that be Apollo?

CALLER: melancholy mawals.

COUNSELOR: Where did they come from? The melancholy narwhals?

CALLER: Bearded men

COUNSELOR: And they just show up, holding narwhals?

CALLER: holding prayer beads

COUNSELOR: That sounds much easier.

CALLER: and yellow booklets

COUNSELOR: See, a book and a string of beads—easy to carry. A book and a narwhal, not so much.

CALLER: stare at her

COUNSELOR: Uh, are they hoping for autographs? At her wedding? That’s the tackiest thing I can imagine.

CALLER: and point aching fingers at her waist.

COUNSELOR: I stand corrected. What is this obsession with women’s waistlines?



Read the rest of “Ramadan” by Khaled Mattawa here.

Carlos Hernandez calls the Poetry Crisis Line

COUNSELOR: Poetry Crisis Line, what is your emergency?
CALLER: Abuela of the Headless Saints:
COUNSELOR: Uh, how do I respond to that?
CALLER: hello.
COUNSELOR: Hello, but I’m not–
CALLER: It’s Carlos,
COUNSELOR: Hello, Carlos. You don’t have to tell me your name.
CALLER: Emma and Osmundo’s son,
COUNSELOR: Or your parents’ names.
CALLER: tu nieto.
COUNSELOR: No, you don’t have to sing me a tune yet, either. Or ever, if you don’t want to.
CALLER: You’ve been dead ten years.
COUNSELOR: I think you have me mistaken for someone else. I would have remembered that. Or not remembered, because I’d be dead, but–
CALLER: Your ghost / is cheesecloth thin now,
COUNSELOR: So, wait, even the dead do fad diets?
CALLER: prone to holes,
COUNSELOR: Oh, I liked that book! About the kids in the prison camp! And the one who’d been arrested for stealing shoes.
CALLER: and if I held your soul
COUNSELOR: No, the whole shoe! And they had to labor all day in the desert–
CALLER:  up to the sun
COUNSELOR: Yeah, the desert sun.
CALLER: I could count the threads of your integrity.
COUNSELOR: Wait–integrity has a thread count?
CALLER: Ten years:
COUNSELOR: So it’s measured in time?
CALLER: no hauntings, geases, duende pranks,
COUNSELOR: Those wouldn’t make very good units of measure.
CALLER: secrets,
COUNSELOR: Those would be worse. How would you know?
CALLER: curses,
COUNSELOR: Again, that could foil your measurements.
CALLER: visions
COUNSELOR: You wouldn’t know if what you were measuring was real–
CALLER: or possessions.
COUNSELOR: –or who was measuring the threads.
CALLER: Not one.
COUNSELOR: Measuring one thread at a time?
CALLER: ¡That’s not the way your afterlife / was meant to work
COUNSELOR: That’s not how any of this works.



Read the original in its entirety here

Mark Strand calls the Poetry Crisis Line

STAFFER: Poetry Crisis Line, what is your emergency?
CALLER: A train runs over me.
STAFFER: Oh my God! Are you hurt? Can I send an ambulance?
CALLER: I feel sorry
STAFFER: Don’t. You don’t have to worry about me.
CALLER: for the engineer
STAFFER: Or him. Or her. Whichever. We need to focus on you.
CALLER: who crouches down / and whispers in my ear
CALLER: that he is innocent.
STAFFER:  What? He said what?
CALLER: He wipes my forehead,
STAFFER:  That’s good. But it’s not OK to pin this on you. That’s called victim blaming, and it’s not OK. The train would still have hit you if you were dressed differently, or if you weren’t walking on the wrong side of the tracks–
CALLER: blows the ashes
STAFFER:  –I mean, OK, it’s a train, so you had to be on the tracks for it to–wait–ashes? Is something on fire?
CALLER: from my lips.
STAFFER: This guy has NO concept of personal space.
CALLER: My blood streams
STAFFER:  What? Never mind about personal space, you need an ambulance! Please tell me where you are.
CALLER: in the evening air,
STAFFER: Well, yeah, but where? In the evening air where?
CALLER: clouding his glasses.
STAFFER:  No. This isn’t about him.
CALLER: He whispers in my ear
STAFFER: You need to understand this is not about him.
CALLER: the details of his life–
STAFFER: Clearly he needs to understand that, too.
CALLER: he has a wife / and child he loves,
STAFFER: That’s great. Can we come back to this after we’ve gotten YOU some help?
CALLER: he’s always been / an engineer.
STAFFER: Right. Any chance you could put the engineer on the phone? Or somebody who actually WANTS my help?


Read the original here.