(Sometimes . . . you write a blog post and then forget to post it. It happens. So enjoy some poetry on a Friday on a Saturday!)
When I feel like I really need break (as in . . . give me a fu*king break), I look for poetry that will make me forget for a moment. Poetry that might bring a smile. Poetry that will lift my mood with it's cleverness -- and then make me gasp when it takes me to an unexpected destination.
When I need that kind of poetry, I pick up Billy Collins.
Billy Collins is one of those poets . . . who just looks at the everyday, ordinary world and finds that little detail or some minor thing to wonder about or marvel at . . . and brings it on home for the rest of us to experience with fresh eyes. His poetry is always, always a delight. (If you're just dipping your toe into poetry, Billy Collins is your guy!)
Last Thursday night, out on the patio with a glass of wine and one of my Billy Collins books, I read poem after poem (too many of them outloud, to Tom, who humors me . . . but had enough - thankyouverymuch - even though he also enjoys Billy Collins) looking for one to share on the blog today (which turns out to be a Saturday and not a Friday). I had a hard time deciding on one, but ultimately made my choice. It's classic Billy Collins to me: beginning with an everyday observation, playing around with words, making clever connections, and then . . . revealing some gut-punch-y truth in the end.
According to the guest information directory,
baby listening is a service offered by this seaside hotel.
Baby-listening -- not a baby who happens to be listening,
as I thought when I first checked in.
Leave the receiver off the hook,
the directory advises,
and your infant can be monitored by the staff,
though the staff, the entry continues,
cannot be held responsible for the well-being
of the baby in question.
Fair enough: someone to listen to the baby.
But the phrase did suggest a baby who is listening,
lying there in the room next to mine
listening to my pen scratching against the page,
or a more advanced baby who has crawled
down the hallway of the hotel
and is pressing its tiny, curious ear against my door.
Lucky for some of us,
poetry is a place where both are true at once,
where meaning only one thing at a time spells malfunction.
Poetry wants to have the baby who is listening at my door
as well as the baby who is being listened to,
quietly breathing into the nearby telephone.
And it also wants the baby
who is making sounds of distress
into the curved receiver lying in the crib
while the girl at reception has just stepped out
to have a smoke with her boyfriend
in the dark by the great wash and sway of the North Sea.
Poetry wants that baby, too,
even a little more than it wants the others.
My best wishes to all of you . . . for a weekend filled with peace and solace, time to rest -- and things that bring you joy. (And maybe some poetry, too.)
Today's poem was published in Aimless Love: New and Selected Poems, Billy Collins, Random House, 2013. Information about the poet can be found here.