This is Billy Collins.
I’m in love with him.
Mr. Collins was the U.S. Poet Laureate from 2001 – 2003. His poetry is witty, tender, and thought-provoking; he writes poems about everyday things like the suburbs and snow days that, on the surface, seem simplistic, but are bursting with all kinds of meaning underneath.
How, how, I love him so.
The title of today’s post is taken from his poem The Breather, which is..is…let’s just say that it evokes something heartbreakingly familiar in me. The text of the poem (and a few other ones from him) is further below.
I think it’s high time I look for poetry readings in the area to visit. And go here! And make my way to the bookstore for some anthologies by Billy Collins.
by Billy Collins
Just as in the horror movies
when someone discovers that the phone calls
are coming from inside the house
so too, I realized
that our tender overlapping
has been taking place only inside me.
All that sweetness, the love and desire—
it’s just been me dialing myself
then following the ringing to another room
to find no one on the line,
well, sometimes a little breathing
but more often than not, nothing.
To think that all this time—
which would include the boat rides,
the airport embraces, and all the drinks—
it’s been only me and the two telephones,
the one on the wall in the kitchen
and the extension in the darkened guest room upstairs.
by Billy Collins
Today we woke up to a revolution of snow,
its white flag waving over everything,
the landscape vanished,
not a single mouse to punctuate the blankness,
and beyond these windows
the government buildings smothered,
schools and libraries buried, the post office lost
under the noiseless drift,
the paths of trains softly blocked,
the world fallen under this falling.
In a while, I will put on some boots
and step out like someone walking in water,
and the dog will porpoise through the drifts,
and I will shake a laden branch
sending a cold shower down on us both.
But for now I am a willing prisoner in this house,
a sympathizer with the anarchic cause of snow.
I will make a pot of tea
and listen to the plastic radio on the counter,
as glad as anyone to hear the news
that the Kiddie Corner School is closed,
the Ding-Dong School, closed.
the All Aboard Children’s School, closed,
the Hi-Ho Nursery School, closed,
along with—some will be delighted to hear—
the Toadstool School, the Little School,
Little Sparrows Nursery School,
Little Stars Pre-School, Peas-and-Carrots Day School
the Tom Thumb Child Center, all closed,
and—clap your hands—the Peanuts Play School.
So this is where the children hide all day,
These are the nests where they letter and draw,
where they put on their bright miniature jackets,
all darting and climbing and sliding,
all but the few girls whispering by the fence.
And now I am listening hard
in the grandiose silence of the snow,
trying to hear what those three girls are plotting,
what riot is afoot,
which small queen is about to be brought down.
The Death of Allegory
by Billy Collins
I am wondering what became of all those tall abstractions
that used to pose, robed and statuesque, in paintings
and parade about on the pages of the Renaissance
displaying their capital letters like license plates.
Truth cantering on a powerful horse,
Chastity, eyes downcast, fluttering with veils.
Each one was marble come to life, a thought in a coat,
Courtesy bowing with one hand always extended,
Villainy sharpening an instrument behind a wall,
Reason with her crown and Constancy alert behind a helm.
They are all retired now, consigned to a Florida for tropes.
Justice is there standing by an open refrigerator.
Valor lies in bed listening to the rain.
Even Death has nothing to do but mend his cloak and hood,
and all their props are locked away in a warehouse,
hourglasses, globes, blindfolds and shackles.
Even if you called them back, there are no places left
for them to go, no Garden of Mirth or Bower of Bliss.
The Valley of Forgiveness is lined with condominiums
and chain saws are howling in the Forest of Despair.
Here on the table near the window is a vase of peonies
and next to it black binoculars and a money clip,
exactly the kind of thing we now prefer,
objects that sit quietly on a line in lower case,
themselves and nothing more, a wheelbarrow,
an empty mailbox, a razor blade resting in a glass ashtray.
As for the others, the great ideas on horseback
and the long-haired virtues in embroidered gowns,
it looks as though they have traveled down
that road you see on the final page of storybooks,
the one that winds up a green hillside and disappears
into an unseen valley where everyone must be fast asleep.