Monday, 30 April 2012

billy collins


There are no pages for the young,
who are better off in one another’s arms,

nor for those who just need to know
about the price of gold,
or a hurricane that is ripping up the Keys.

But eventually you may join
the crowd who turn here first to see
who has fallen in the night,
who has left a shape of air walking in their place.

Here is where the final cards are shown
the age, the cause, the plaque of deeds,
and sometimes an odd scrap of news –
that she collected sugar bowls,
that he played solitaire without any clothes.

And all the survivors huddle at the end
under the roof of a paragraph
as if they had sidestepped the flame of death.

What better way to place a thin black frame
around the things of the morning –
the hand-painted cup,
the hemispheres of a cut orange,
the slant of sunlight on the table?

And sometimes a most peculiar pair turns up,
strange roommates lying there
side by side upon the page –
Arthur Godfrey next to Man Ray,
Ken Kesey by the side of Dale Evans.

It is enough to bring to mind an ark of death,
not the couples of the animal kingdom,
but rather pairs of men and women
ascending the gangplank two by two,

surgeon and model,
balloonist and metal worker,
an archaeologist and an authority on pain.

Arm in arm, they get on board
then join others leaning on the rails,
all saved at last from the awful flood of life –

so many of them every day
there would have to be many arks,

an armada to ferry the dead
over the heavy waters that roll beyond the world,

and many Noahs too,
bearded and fiercely browed, vigilant up there at every prow.


Susan said...

The obituary page is a strange ark indeed, the couples there oddly simpatico. I have spent too much time there already.

Rachel Fox said...

I seem to be coming across Collins everywhere this week! I have very mixed feelings about his poems... not that this is a bad thing... but I always like bits and really dislike other bits! Still, what does he care? Success, success...

swiss said...

yes, obituaries - they don't get any less with time!

as for collins, it seemed for a while there, and maybe still - who knows - that a dioslike of collins was to be expected. for me, when he hits the mark it always brings a smile to my face. i thought you'd be up for all that plain language?

Rachel Fox said...

As I say, I like bits. And assuming I'd like everything in plain language is like assuming you'd like everything with no capital letters or something! I find his poems almost schmaltzy at times... I think that's what it is. And is it me or is there a smugness around too? Maybe it's just me.

swiss said...

but i kind of do get a strange satisfaction when i see the lack of capital letters! lol

maybe it's that collins poems tend to operate in a quite narrow social environment, a wee bit like jane austen, which is fine if you're in the mood but otherwise might just seem a bit.. light?

i'm not sure. what we need is a proper collins hater to explain!

Rachel Fox said...

I bought a book of his while I was away but it got on my nerves... I gave it to someone else as a present in the end!

swiss said...

that's showing much more self-discipline than i have. i really need to have a bit of a book jihad for just those sort of books but i'm always worrying that a few years down the line i'll remember something or see something i've missed

Rachel Fox said...

and then you can buy whatever it is back for £2.50 from the evil empire...