May 8, 2008

So True

Thank you, Mom, for all the EVERYTHING!

The Lanyard

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 sickroom,
lifted teaspoons of medicine to my lips,
set cold face-cloths 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.

- Billy Collins


Andrea W. said...

My brother just emailed that poem the other day after hearing it in Sunday School. I loved it! What a great Mother's Day tribute!

Tiffany said...

Awwww! You have just posted one of my most favorite poems by my absolute FAVORITE poet! I have a CD of him reading this (and other poems) to a large audience and I never get sick of it!

Yay for moms!

Shauna said...

Love that poem, it is so true!

Mean It - Love It! said...

That made me cry. Just to recognize that you'll never be able to repay the debt is enough I think.

Thanks for sharing that.

Also, I'm so sorry Kathy and her family are going through this. I know they mean a lot to your family.

Kris said...

What a great poem. It's so true. Don't we moms love the corny little gifts our children make us, just because they made them. So sweet and funny.