John Milbury-Steen

On the Suicide Hotline


All I want is -pathy, -pathy, some

sym- and em-, a semblance of co-ache.

I crave a voice debating me, Resolved,

you have a life too good for you to take,


but on the hot line I'm a triagee.

"Are you holding a gun?"  I answer, "Yes."

"Loaded?"  "Yes."  I have to act as if

my desperation speeds me to success.


They make me name the model of the gun.

They want to hear it click.  They want to hear

despair or they will put me back on hold.

I call too often.  I'm becoming old.

John Milbury-Steen has poems published or forthcoming in 14 by 14, 32 Poems, Able Muse, The Anglican Theological Review, The Beloit Poetry Journal, Best Poem, Blue Unicorn, Bumbershoot, The Centrifugal Eye, Chimaera, Christianity and Literature, Contemporary Sonnet, Dark Horse, The Deronda Review (Neovictorian/Cochlea), The Evansville, Review, Kayak, Hellas, The Listening Eye, Lucid Rhythms, The Lyric, The Pennsylvania Review, The Piedmont Literary Review, Scholia Satyrica, Shenandoah, Shattercolors, the Shit Creek Review, and Umbrella.  Milbury-Steen served in the Peace Corps in Liberia, West Africa, earned an MFA with Ruth Stone at Indiana University, and worked as an artificial intelligence programmer in Computer Based Education at the University of Delaware.  He currently teaches English as a Second Language.



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