– Love and Gratitude in a Season of Sorrow
I had breakfast this morning with Billy Collins, American poet laureate. We met on the patio at dawn. I chewed my breakfast bar, while I watched him chew his thoughts – snatches of his days – savored, digested, and transformed in that warm oven of his imagination into tasty little scones.
And, the Lord is my witness, the man reached across the table under the tan umbrella and deftly placed the buttery sweetness into my mouth with his long, elegant fingers.
The trees were full of glad chatter, tweets, and whistles. Down the block a car started up. I slowly relished Mr. Collins’ scone, so rich and luxurious, beside my sensible protein bar. My dog, snoozing at my feet never noticed, when I fell in love with charming Billy. But that brown squirrel on the power line might have seen the cockeyed gratitude oozing out the corners of my mouth and running down my chin.
Here, help yourself to one of Billy’s scones:
As If to Demonstrate an Eclipse
I pick an orange from a wicker basket
and place it on the table
to represent the sun.
Then down at the other end
a blue and white marble
becomes the earth
and nearby I lay the little moon of an aspirin.
I get a glass from a cabinet,
open a bottle of wine,
then I sit back in a ladder-backed chair,
a benevolent god presiding
over a miniature creation myth,
and I began to sing
a homemade canticle of thanks
for this perfect little arrangement,
for not making the earth to hot or cold
not making it spin too fast or slow
so that the grove of orange trees
and the owl become possible,
not to mention the rolling wave,
the play of clouds, geese in flight,
and the Z of lightening on a dark lake.
Then I fill my glass again
and give thanks for the trout,
the oak, and the yellow feather,
singing the room full of shadows,
as sun and earth and moon
circle one another in their impeccable orbits
and I get more and more cockeyed with gratitude.
Nine Horses – Billy Collins
I know. Life is hard, even horrific. I wish I could give you answers and take away the pain. All I have is Billy. Take down a glass. Fill it to the brim with homemade gratitude. You know the kind, fermented with what is handy – the cat sleeping in the sun, the hot coffee in the brown cup, the yellow feather –
and sing a little cockeyed canticle of your own.