Sunday, December 1, 2013

post-holiday Billy Collins poem

Feeling grateful today.

I hope you had a peaceful Thanksgiving.
I am grateful if you are reading this–
or have read any of my posts–
or bought my products or fabrics–
for the past few years.

This morning our house was quiet-
a rare morning with the kids away-
we laid in bed and drank our coffee-
and we watched a feelgood movie-
The Wedding Date–
remembered what it felt like when we had nothing but time
to watch the shadows in the corners of our wakening room–
then I grabbed the book of Billy Collins poetry from the nightstand-
and found this one-
with a dogeared page-
the one that had been my favorite nearly 8 years ago–
when this book was given to us as a baby gift–
and read it aloud.
If you are a mom-
or have one-
you will cry.
We did.

The Lanyard - Billy Collins

The other day I was ricocheting slowly
off the blue walls of this room,
moving as if underwater from typewriter to piano,
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
when 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 into the past more suddenly—
a past where I sat at a workbench at a camp
by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid long 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 sick room,
lifted spoons of medicine to my lips,
laid 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 thousands of 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 worn truth

that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took
the two-tone lanyard from my hand,
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.


Anne said...

Thank you, this poem was a favorite of mine many years ago, sadly I had quite forgotten about it for a while in my travels to find new things, it brings back many memories, good and bad, I am so thankful to have it back in my memory.

Diana Stott said...

Thanks SO much for the poem - I had never read it before and thoroughly enjoyed it.


DonaleeK said...

OH yes.