in honor of National Poetry Month,
in honor of Mom's love for poetry,
in honor of what would have been her 98th birthday,
and in honor of her delight in dozens of useless, goofy gifts ...
by Billy Collins
The other day as I was ricocheting slowly
off the pale 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 face-clothes 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 archaic truth
that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took
the two-tone 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.
While I was looking for "The Lanyard" online (too lazy to type it out), I found several versions. All with mistakes -- in words, punctuation, spacing, line breaks, you name it. When online, the old saying is true: Trust, but verify. I had Aimless Love by Collins on my bookshelf, so I finally got off my lazy tush, found the poem on page 60, and typed it out.
Mom, of course, would tell us that everything happens for the best. I will say that while looking around online, I stumbled across a poet I wasn't familiar with, Julia Kasdorf, and I love her poem: "What I Learned From My Mother."
|You know what I learned from my mother?|
Look up! And enjoy every possible moment.