H. D. calls the Poetry Crisis Line

COUNSELOR: Poetry Crisis Line, what is your emergency?

CALLER: The sea called—

COUNSELOR: No kidding! What did it say?

CALLER: you faced the estuary,

COUNSELOR: Cool. What did I see there?

CALLER: you were drowned

COUNSELOR: I was WHAT???

CALLER: as the tide passed.—

COUNSELOR: Righ. Um…

CALLER: I am glad of this—

COUNSELOR: What have I ever done to you?

CALLER: at least you have escaped.

COUNSELOR: No I haven’t. My shift doesn’t end until midnight.

 

From “Loss” by H. D. Read the original here.

Green Eggs and Ham meets The Truman Show (as a portal fantasy)

It’s Green Eggs and Ham meets The Truman Show, and it’s a portal fantasy.

A + B = Awesome

 

I do not think I’m on TV

With lots of people watching me.

 

Then can you explain this wizard

And that fire-breathing lizard?

 

But who would put me on TV?

That’s not a show I’d want to see.

 

Would you want to watch the show

If it had a talking crow?

 

I would not want to watch that show,

Not even with a talking crow.

I would not watch me with a wizard

Or a fire-breathing lizard.

I would not watch me on TV,

It just does not appeal to me.

 

If we sent you somewhere scenic

Would you watch you with a phoenix?

 

I would not watch me with a phoenix

Even if the views are scenic.

I would not want to watch that show,

Not even with a talking crow.

I would not watch me with a lizard

Or a fire-breathing wizard.

I would not watch me on TV,

Not even if the channel’s free.

 

Would you watch you on a boat?

Or an island that can float?

 

I would not watch me on a boat

Or an island that can float.

I would not watch me somewhere scenic,

I would not watch me with a phoenix.

I do not want to watch that show,

Not even with a talking crow,

Not with a lizard, not with a wizard,

Nor if it’s free. Put down the TV.

 

Would you watch you on a throne

Carved from a single, monstrous bone?

 

I would not watch what you have shown,

Not even from a throne of bone

Somewhere scenic on a boat

Or an island that can float,

Not with a phoenix or a crow,

I do not want to watch that show,

Not with a lizard, not with a wizard.

Turn off the TV—there’s nothing to see.

 

Would you watch you with a sword

That too easily gets bored?

 

I would not watch me with a sword

That too easily gets bored—

Do you think I’m off my gourd?

Not from a throne crafted from bone,

Not on a boat or an island that floats,

No matter how scenic. Not with a phoenix.

Not with a crow hosting the show,

Not with a wizard, not with a lizard.

Turn off that stuff. I’ve heard enough.

 

Would you watch you in a world

In which space and time are curled?

 

I would not watch me in a world

In which space and time are curled,

I would not watch me in a world

In which space and time are curled,

I would not—have we gotten stuck?

Viewers at home, you’re out of luck.

 

If you would escape this wheel,

I’m sure by now you know the deal:

The only way—you’ve got to know—

Is to sit and watch the show.

 

Fine! If it will set me free,

I will watch me on TV.

 

That’s all I need for you to see.

 

[On TV:

 

I wonder what’s behind this door—

I haven’t seen it here before.

 

Try it, try it, and you’ll see.

(I’ll just rub my hands with glee.)

 

Very well, I’ll try the door.

Ack! Is that a manticore?]

 

Now I’ve watched the show I’m in.

The plots are all absurdly thin,

The sets are cheap, the friends are fake,

The whole thing is a big mistake.

I don’t know why you think I’d feel

That any of this stuff is real.

 

But you were there!

 

But I don’t care.

Now that I have watched my show

I still don’t like it. Can I go?

Giorgos Seferis calls the Poetry Crisis Line

COUNSELOR: Poetry Crisis Line, what is your emergency?

CALLER: Since we still had some hardtack / how stupid of us / to go ashore and eat

COUNSELOR: Did you stop at some waterfront dive?

CALLER: the Sun’s slow cattle,

COUNSELOR: Oh. Ship’s rations can be bland, but cattle rustling?

CALLER: for each was a castle

COUNSELOR: Oh—cas-tle. I thought you said—

CALLER: you’d have to battle / forty years,

COUNSELOR: You had a hankering for siegefood?

CALLER: till you’d become / a hero

COUNSELOR: So now you are the sandwich?

CALLER: and a star!

COUNSELOR: Oh, are you in one of those places that names sandwiches after celebrities?

CALLER: On the earth’s back

COUNSELOR: How do you know which side is which?

CALLER: we hungered,

COUNSELOR: Is the food better in the front?

CALLER: but when we’d eaten well / we fell to these lower regions / mindless and satisfied.

COUNSELOR: Yeah, that sometimes happens to me when I’ve eaten too much.

CALLER: …

 

 

Read the rest of “The Companions in Hades” by Giorgos Seferis here.

Roald Dahl calls the Poetry Crisis Line

COUNSELOR: Poetry Crisis Line, what is your emergency?

CALLER: As I was going to St Ives

COUNSELOR: This sounds familiar.

CALLER: I met a man with seven wives

COUNSELOR: And you want to know how many cats they had in their forty-nine sacks?

CALLER: Said he, ‘I think it’s much more fun / Than getting stuck with only one.’

COUNSELOR: But more work too, I’d imagine.

CALLER: . . .

COUNSELOR: I mean, emotional labor. With eight people, the housework must go swimmingly.

CALLER: . . .

COUNSELOR: Uh. . . except for cleaning up after three hundred and forty-three cats.

 

Click here to read “St. Ives” and other poems by Roald Dahl.

Queen of Cheese Classics: “Ode on the Mammoth Cheese Weighing over 7,000 Pounds,” by James McIntyre

We have seen the Queen of cheese,
Laying quietly at your ease,
Gently fanned by evening breeze —
Thy fair form no flies dare seize.

All gaily dressed soon you’ll go
To the great Provincial Show,
To be admired by many a beau
In the city of Toronto.

Cows numerous as a swarm of bees —
Or as the leaves upon the trees —
It did require to make thee please,
And stand unrivalled Queen of Cheese.

May you not receive a scar as
We have heard that Mr. Harris
Intends to send you off as far as
The great World’s show at Paris.

Of the youth — beware of these —
For some of them might rudely squeeze
And bite your cheek; then songs or glees
We could not sing o’ Queen of Cheese.

We’rt thou suspended from baloon,
You’d cast a shade, even at noon;
Folks would think it was the moon
About to fall and crush them soon.

Poetry Crisis Line training: Hamlet

Occasionally, the Poetry Crisis Line counselors need retraining. Below is the transcript of a meeting with counselors from the Main Desk, the Deus ex Machina department, and the Unrequited Love Desk.

(If you’ve missed the run-up, you can follow these links to read part 1, part 2, and part 3)

SUPERVISOR: Do you know why I called this meeting?

UNREQUITED LOVE: Screening errors?

MAIN: Mixed metaphors?

SUPERVISOR: Do you remember this caller?

[plays back recording of HAMLET call]

HAMLET [recorded]: To be or not to be…

MAIN: Oh yeah. I transferred him to the Deus Ex Machina Desk.

DEUS EX MACHINA: And I sent him to Unrequited Love.

UNREQUITED: And he wadered off in the middle of the call. How is he?

SUP: Dead.

MAIN: Oh no.

UNREQUITED: Did he kill himself?

SUP [nods]: And his girlfriend.

UNREQ: Oh no.

SUP: And her brother.

MAIN: That’s terrible.

SUP: And their father.

UNREQ: Damn.

SUP:  And his mother.

DEUS: Crap.

MAIN: Are you sure? All of these people?

SUP: And his uncle and stepfather.

MAIN: His uncle and his stepfather. On top of all the rest?

SUP: No, his uncle and stepfather. One person.

UNREQ: That’s kind of creepy.

SUP: Apparently he was the target. The rest were collateral damage.

MAIN: Really?

DEUS: Dude must have lousy aim.

SUP: So when you had this caller on the phone, did he seem depressed.

MAIN: Oh yeah.

DEUS: Clearly.

UNREQ: Totally.

SUP: Did he talk about death?

UNREQ: Oh yeah

MAIN: Constantly.

DEUS: Whatever he said, it always came back to death.

SUP: And you didnn’t think to call me?

DEUS: No.

UNREQ? Not really.

MAIN: Why would we?

SUP: Because he was depressed, and talking about death.

DEUS: And?

MAIN: This is the Poetry Crisis Line, you know.

UNREQ: Everyone’s depressed.

DEUS: And death obsessed.

UNREQ: And lonely.

SUP: [long sigh] OK, we’re going to do some training to recognize when a caller is in danger. But if something like this happens again, please get a supervisor on right away. Or…at least somewhere along the line.

Seamus Heaney calls the Poetry Crisis Line

COUNSELOR: Poetry Crisis Line, what is your emergency?

CALLER: Cloudburst and steady downpour now

COUNSELOR: So you’re calling to talk about the weather?

CALLER: for days.

COUNSELOR: Right. If you want to talk to days, I may need to transfer you to another counselor when my shift ends.

CALLER: Still mammal,

COUNSELOR: That’s correct. I don’t think we have any birds or reptiles working today.

CALLER: straw-footed on the mud,

COUNSELOR: I don’t know what shoes the other counselor will be wearing.

CALLER: he begins to sense the weather / by his skin.

COUNSELOR: Um, yes. If you go out in the rain, your skin will feel it.

CALLER: A nimble snout of flood

COUNSELOR: So there’s rain up your nose?

CALLER: licks over stepping-stones

COUNSELOR: So you’ve got a dog out in the rain? They love that.

CALLER: and goes uprooting.

COUNSELOR: So you need to get him out of your garden. Do you have any dog treats?

CALLER: He fords

COUNSELOR: No—you want him out of the garden, but don’t encourage him to chase cars.

CALLER: his life by

COUNSELOR: Yeah, it could risk his life. Can you call him? What’s his name?

CALLER: sounding.

COUNSELOR: You mean Sounder? Like in the book?

CALLER: Soundings.

COUNSELOR: That’s a strange name for a dog, but OK.

 

From “Gifts of Rain” by Seamus Heaney