This Thing Called Courage

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Poem of the Day

I HAVE TOO MUCH TO DO and not enough time to do it-- isn't that the mantra of these ungracious times? And all too often, I fear, this feeling comes from deep inside, rather than outside-- but not always. One of the reasons I chose to live la vie boheme, as the artist's or writer's life is often called, in what most would call near poverty, without medical insurance or houses, or cars that might illicit envy from my fellow travellers on the road of life, is so that I can be both the bank, and the withdrawer, or my share of Time.

If you're reading this and haven't heard from me in a while-- and there are, alas, many of you-- forgive me. I am buried in the deep well of a new novel, and only come up for air when it's necessary. Laundry's in arrears, meals get skipped, calls go unanswered. Oi.

Anyway, one thing I try to do each day to pull back the taffy of time from the world, which wants more and more of it seemingly, is to take my Daily Poetry Break. No matter how crazy it gets, I take ten minutes, snatch at a random book of poetry, and head outside to the woods out back, if it's reasonably clement. If not, I go up to the attic into the little cubby hole, or into the spare bedroom's closet with a flashlight or candle-- any hidey place will do-- and indulge myself in the unbridled luxury of revealing in lovely words. I read them, then read them againj, then sit and think about them. And I come back-- not better, but more myself.

So, without further ado, here is today's poem, by Irish poet Billy Collins:

The Night House
— Billy Collins

Every day the body works in the fields of the world
mending a stone wall
or swinging a sickle through the tall grass —
the grass of civics, the grass of money —
and every night the body curls around itself
and listens for the soft bells of sleep.

But the heart is restless and rises
from the body in the middle of the night,
leaves the trapezoidal bedroom
with its thick, pictureless walls
to sit by herself at the kitchen table
and heat some milk in a pan.

And the mind gets up too, puts on a robe
and goes downstairs, lights a cigarette,
and opens a book on engineering.
Even the conscience awakens and roams
from room to room in the dark,
darting away from every mirror like a strange fish.

And the soul is up on the roof
in her nightdress, straddling the ridge,
singing a song about the wildness of the sea
until the first rip of pink appears in the sky.
Then, they all will return to the sleeping body
the way a flock of birds settles back into a tree,

resuming their daily colloquy,
talking to each other or themselves,
even through the heat of the long afternoons.
Which is why the body — that house of voices —
sometimes puts down its metal tongs, its needle, or its pen
to stare into the distance,

to listen to all its names being called
before bending to its labor.


Blogger berlinorama said...

What a wonderful poem! A while back a friend gave me a collection of Billy Collins poems (Sailing Alone Around the Room) and I dipped into it briefly, didn't find what I read that compelling, and put it aside, as one does. Now I will definitely give him another try. Thanks so much.
I am also very happy to hear that you are working on a new novel. I have been an admirer of your writing from This Thing Called Courage on and really loved Map of the Harbor Islands. I wish I weren't so far away so I could attend one of your readings, but I have a dear old friend in Medford so maybe I will get back to the Boston area again in the next year or two and catch you live!
Pam in Berlin
P.S. It is great that you have been posting so frequently of late. I always enjoy your observations on life and politics so much.

7:49 AM  
Blogger BiscuitsBoy said...

Hi Pam,
Thanks so much for your kind words-- this internet age is really something-- it excites me that what I post and what I write is picked up instantly in Berlin, and vice versa-- how cool is that. So, what brought you to Berlin, or have you grown up there? I did a reading once in Medford, for my first book--about five people showed up and as it turned out two of them were there by accident, the other was my roommate, and the other was a friend I had dragged along. But I'm happy to say attendance has been better lately-- though, like the old farmer said, even if one sheep shows up in the morning, he still feeds it...
I've been trying to be more faithful to the blog lately. Sometimes it's difficult as, when one writes all day, I'm sometimes not in the mood to write at night. But am ona roll now so will try and keep that up.

Take good care, and thanks again for the kind words!
Auf weidersehen!

11:39 PM  
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