Poem of the Week, by Jessy Randall

img_5354Hello, you’ve reached the Crisis Connection. This is Anna. Could you tell me your first name? I remember the sound of that woman’s voice. This was many many years ago. Someone close to me was in terrible shape, and nothing I did helped, and in panic and desperation I had called the hotline seeking guidance as to how to help. My name is Alison but that doesn’t matter it’s not me who needs help it’s my friend and I don’t know what to do and I began to describe the situation as she listened. And listened. Her calm and her focus, over more than a thousand miles of an invisible cell phone connection, was tangible. How are you feeling right now, Alison? Where are you, Alison? What’s your plan for the next few hours? Is there a way you can take care of yourself in this hard time? To this day I can hear her voice, so calm and warm in my ear. Saying my name. Listening. I remember looking up at the sky at one point. It was late at night, far from the city, and the stars were thick in the heavens. After a long time my voice was slow and tired, but I now had a little more energy to keep going. I will remember that conversation the rest of my life. The poem below made me think of Anna, and that long ago dark night. I wish there were some way to tell her how grateful I will always be to her.

Suicide Hotline Hold Music
     – Jessy Randall

We play cheerful music on the suicide hotline—
cheerful but not too cheerful.
Nothing with lyrics.
Sometimes, when I finally talk to them,
they’re crying, and sometimes they keep crying.
I fight the urge to tell them jokes.
Sometimes they get on my nerves.
Sometimes I ask them to see things from my point of view.
They gulp. They try. Even in crisis
they are polite.
I ask them where it hurts.
They always have an answer.
Here’s what they don’t know. When I play the music,
I’m still on the line. I listen to them breathing.
If their breathing slows, I keep playing
the hold music. I’m like a deejay and I’m like
a doctor. I adjust the music with care. I fine-tune,
giving them what they need at just that moment.
I’ll ask them to hold and play the music again.
I have a button I can press that makes the music skip.
The same sound repeats for twenty seconds.
When I get back on the line with them, they never fail
to let me know about the problem. They’re helpful.
“Thank you,” I say. “We’ll fix that for next time.”
It reminds them they are part of the world. Then
they tell me things, sometimes haltingly,
sometimes in one big rush. How they feel,
how bad it is.
I can keep them on the line for hours.
The main thing is to keep them on the line.

For more information on Jessy Randall, please click here.

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