by Billy Collins from Poetry Magazine (April 2005)
It was a day in June, all lawn and sky,
the kind that gives you no choice
but to unbutton your shirt
and sit outside in a rough wooden chair.
And if a glass of ice tea and an anthology
of seventeenth-century devotional poetry
with a dark blue cover are available,
then the picture can hardly be improved.
I remember a fly kept landing on my wrist,
and two black butterflies
with white and red wing-dots
bobbed around my head in the bright air.
I could feel the day offering itself to me,
and I wanted nothing more
than to be in the moment-- but which moment?
Not that one, or that one, or that one,
or any of those that were scuttling by
seemed perfectly right for me.
Plus, I was too knotted up with questions
about the past and his tall, evasive sister, the future.
What churchyard held the bones of George Herbert?
Why did John Donne's wife die so young?
And more pressingly,
what could we serve the vegetarian twins
we had invited for dinner that evening
not knowing then that they travel with their own grapes?
And who was the driver of that pickup
flying down the road toward the single railroad track?
And so the priceless moments of the day
were squandered one by one--
or more likely several thousand at a time--
with quandary and pointless interrogation.
All I wanted was to be a pea of being
at rest inside the pod of time,
but that was not going to happen today,
I had to admit to myself
as I closed the blue book on the face
of Thomas Traherne and returned to the house
where I lit a flame under a pot
full of water where some eggs were afloat,
and, while they were cooking,
stared into a little oval mirror by the sink
just to see if that crazy glass
had anything particular to say to me today.