Sunday, October 26, 2008

Poem of the Week #43

What I’d Say If I Were Billy Collins’ Mother
Responding to His Poem, “The Lanyard”

You might think a lanyard a small thing,
hardly repayment for having carried you
nine months inside me and then all that pain
and tearing to push you out into the world.

You might think a lanyard not equal
in any way to mother’s milk or the many
small kindnesses I orchestrated for you
behind the curtains of your childhood.

A child lacks access to the means of production,
claims nothing in the way of material wealth, and so,
as every mother knows, a boy can only give his mother
love, and what he finds or makes by hand.

From my perspective, a useless red and white lanyard,
wrought by you on a summer afternoon—when you
could have been swimming in the deep Adirondack lake
or playing capture the flag—is really quite immense,

despite its small and functionless nature. To know
you sat immobile on a workbench for a while
and meditated on me as you twisted colored strands
together to make the boxy lanyard is return enough.

You might think a lanyard a small thing,
and indeed, you would be right. The lanyard still
leaves an imprint in my palm when I press it there.
It fits in my pocket, goes where I go.

Lisa Vihos

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