Monday, May 5, 2008

here i go again

...with more poetry. i've got to take this book back to the library, so i figured i'd record a couple that i like here. these are by billy collins, a contemporary poet. my genius roommate toni introduced him to me.

i want to carry you
and for you to carry me
the way voices are said to carry over water.

just this morning on the shore,
i could hear two people talking quietly
in a rowboat on the far side of the lake.

they were talking about fishing,
then one changed the subject,
and, i swear, they began talking about you.

the lanyard
the other day as i was ricocheting slowly
off the pale blue walls of this room,
bouncing from typewriter to piano,
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
i found myself in the L section of the dictionary
where my eyes fell upon the word lanyard.

no cookie nibbled by a french novelist
could send one more suddenly into the past--
a past where i sat at a workbench at a camp
by a deep adirondack lake
learning how to braid thin plastic strips
into a lanyard, a gift for my mother.

i had never seen anyone use a lanyard
or wear one, if that's what you did with them,
but that did not keep me from crossing
strand over strand again and again
until i had made a boxy
red and white lanyard for my mother.

she gave me life and milk from her breasts ,
and i gave her a lanyard.
she nursed me in many a sickroom,
lifted teaspoons of medicine to my lips,
set cold face-cloths on my forehead,
and then led me out into the airy light

and taught me to walk and swim,
and i, in turn, presented her with a lanyard.
here are a thousand meals, she said,
and here is clothing and a good education.
and here is your lanyard, i replied,
which i made with a little help from a counselor.

here is a breathing body and a beating heart,
strong legs, bones and teeth,
and two clear eyes to read the world, she whispered,
and here, i said, is the lanyard i made at camp.
and here, i wish to say to her now,
is a smaller gift--not the archaic truth

that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took
the two-tone lanyard from my hands,
i was as sure as a boy could be
that this useless, worthless thing i wove
out of boredom would be enough to make us even.

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