Definition

One must make a distinction however: when dragged into prominence by half poets, the result is not poetry, nor till the autocrats among us can be “literalists of the imagination”—above insolence and triviality and can present for inspection, imaginary gardens with real toads in them, shall we have it.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A Toads Favo(u)rite... The Lanyard by Billy Collins

Always a Billy Collins fan, I became even more enamored with the former U.S. Poet Laureate after having lunch with him just before my first poetry book was released.  We enjoyed pleasant mealtime conversation as his fiancé talked about their impending move. After the meal he read several of his poems. The Lanyard was among them.

Listening to his well-wrought words, I pondered Mr. Collins' relationship with his mother and marveled at his ability to make everyone in the room reflect on their own maternal relationships. 

Now, every time I read The Lanyard, I hear his calm, warm voice, and relive that sweet and magical day. I hope you get a taste as you read it here today.   ~KIM

THE LANYARD
by Billy Collins

The other day as I was ricocheting slowly
off the 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 sick room,
lifted teaspoons of medicine to my lips,
set cold facecloths on my forehead
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 archaic truth,
that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took the two-toned 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."

18 comments:

Lolamouse said...

I love the poetry of Billy Collins! He's accessible and "reader friendly," but writes great truths and interesting ideas. Great pick!

LaTonya Baldwin said...

Love Collins. My husband's favorite, is the one about a neighbor's dog. I can imgaine what it was liket to meet him.

Hannah said...

I like that description, "accessible and "reader friendly," but writes great truths" perfectly said.

I enjoyed this poem, thank you, Kim!

Susan said...

New to me. I like this poem very much. Thanks Kim.

Mama Zen said...

This is one of my favorites!

Kerry O'Connor said...

I've read this particular poem before, and it is so very moving. It says so perfectly that a child is not expected to thank his or her mother for the gift of birth, care and lessons but only to appreciate and acknowledge her. It reminds a parent that our children are giving back to us in so many ways that they will never know.

Outlawyer said...

one of my favorites, thanks. k. manicddaily

Loredana Donovan said...

This moved me to tears a bit. Very touching. Thanks for sharing.

Kathryn said...

It gave me goosebumps reading this. It does make you reflect on your own relationships. I remember buying my mother the most horrific necklace of an anchor with a big plastic center during a school visit to HMS Victory. She wore it though and kept it amongst the other jewelry in her dresser. Oh a mothers love!

Kay L. Davies said...

"I was as sure as a boy could be"...and he was right, of course. A handmade gift from a child is all a mother asks in return for the myriad things she gave him.
And how nice for you, Kim, not only to have met him (how-do-you-do-goodbye) but to have lunched and conversed with a poet you admire.
K



Sherry Blue Sky said...

What a wonderful poem! And how wonderful it must have been to meet him and hear him read it aloud, in his warm calm voice. Wow.

Debi Swim said...

Heard a recording of him reading this. One of my favorite poets. I love this one in particular.

Margaret said...

...and it was, it was enough! YES! I LOVE this poem. My son gave me a book of his poems two Christmas's ago and this is one of my favorite of his!

Thanks, Kim for a wonderful re-read of this tender poem - It always fills my heart... and now I must go tackle my 5 year old with a big mother's hug (and kiss).

Karen said...

This is one of my favorites, and I'm soooo jealous! You had lunch with my poetry crush AND heard him read in person! Wahh!

Grace said...

I have read this poem before and yet,on the second reading, I am still moved ~ Beautiful share Kim ~

Susie Clevenger said...

He is a new discovery for me....love the poem. It speaks so much about the thoughts and faith of a child. The gift can be simple, but it is given with the whole heart.

Ella said...

Thank you Kim! This is so touching~ I love the layered details and how they encompass and capture our hearts!

grapeling said...

very cool share, Kim