Friday, March 03, 2017

Poetry Friday -- In Which Billy Collins Helps Me Write a Poem

Life comes at you fast, doesn't it?

Last Friday morning, I posted a Billy Collins poem that was snort-worthy. I loved following the comments and seeing the plan for this week's Billy-palooza develop, but I was not able to make my usual rounds and comment on others' blogs, because...

...last Friday evening, life (and the floor) came at my mom fast -- she fell, breaking her hip, arm and wrist, earning her a helicopter ride to Denver. She had a partial hip replacement on Saturday, and she's scheduled to have surgery on her arm and wrist today.

For today's poem, I borrowed lines from Billy's poems.


This is the middle.
Things have had time to get complicated,
messy, really. Nothing is simple anymore.¹

I surmised as a bar of sunlight illuminated my orange juice,²
this is the cycle of life.

I say to no one,
this is the wheel of fortune³


the moon in the window seems to have drifted
out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.⁴

Hours, days, and months are but the rags of time,⁵


why do we bother with the rest of the day,
the swale of the afternoon,
the sudden dip into evening,

then night with his notorious perfumes,
his many-pointed stars?⁶

Why, indeed.


I was in the garden then, surrounded by the hum of bees
and the Latin names of flowers, watching the early light
flash off the slanted windows of the greenhouse
and silver the limbs on the rows of dark hemlocks.

As usual, I was thinking about the moments of the past,
letting my memory rush over them like water
rushing over the stones on the bottom of a stream.
I was even thinking a little about the future, that place
where people are doing a dance we cannot imagine,
a dance whose name we can only guess.⁷

Much gratitude to Billy Collins for providing me with the words for this poem:





Memorizing “The Sun Rising” by John Donne



Heidi has the All-Billy Birthday Extravaganza (plus other assorted poetry posts, including the Poetry Sisters' Ekphrastic Poetry Challenge) at My Juicy Little Universe.


  1. Mary Lee, I do hope your mother recovers quickly. Your poem stopped my breath at certain points along the way. This poem really captures all the thoughts that must have been bouncing around in your head throughout this experience.Thank you for sharing with us.

  2. Blessings to you and to your mother, Mary Lee. Each day we hope is a good one and of course never know what it will bring. That you used Billy Collins' poems into one meant just for you and your mom is so sweet. I hope each day brings her recovery closer.

  3. Wow, amazing use of Billy's lines, Mary Lee! Sorry to hear about your mom's accident. Sending love and healing thoughts for her recovery. Hope today's surgeries go smoothly.

  4. I'm touched by your poem, Mary Lee. Here's hoping your mom heals well. Hugs to you.

  5. So sorry to hear about your mother's fall! Thanks for taking your experience and Billy's words and making this poem.

  6. A brilliant piece of work! How did you do this with all this trauma happening? Keep this one! Love your words, "silver the limbs on the rows of dark hemlocks. " and memory washing over like water. Wowza!

    1. Check the footnotes! The only words that are mine are: and, so, why indeed, and but. All the brilliance belongs to Billy Collins!!

  7. Mary Lee, I love the way you put his words into your experience with and thoughts about your mom. I am so sorry to hear about her fall! I hope that she recovers quickly and well. My mom had a fall last year about this time, and is doing well. Sending lots of warm thoughts for your mom!

  8. I have always loved Billy Collins. I'm enjoying this week's celebration of poetry.

    I've been thinking of you and your mom. Glad you are by her side.


  9. I'm sending all the good wishes I can summon your way Mary Lee - here's to your mother, and her recovery.
    And I am just stunned by the inventiveness of your poem - it's your voice, shaping Billy's lines. You are a marvel.

  10. What a beautiful tribute to Billy Collins poems. And to think that you did this while sitting in the hospital. Wishing your mom the best of medical care as she navigates this new challenge. Glad that you are able to be with her.

  11. Before, below and between creation is selection. Over orginality is order. Inside ingenuity is engineering.

    I'm so glad your bedside vigil gave you time to mine Billy's words for yours. All healing thoughts to your mother!

  12. Thinking of you and your mom, Mary Lee and sending love and healing thoughts. Thank your for shaping this poem... I really love the thought at the end about the dance in the future.

  13. Aww, my best to you as you do your mother-care. May she heal quickly and totally. And I so enjoyed your BC mashup. Very apropos to your situation.

  14. Amazing that you were able to take so many words and lines and weave them together in this way. You are a found poetry master these days. Prayers for healing and coping to you and your mum.

  15. What an amazing thing to do, Mary Lee - to fashion such a personal (&comforting I hope) poem during such a challenging time, with these words of Billy Collins. I hope surgery went well and that your mom has taken a step on the long road of healing ahead.

  16. Your poor mom. She has had more than her share of bad days over the past weeks... or is it months already? Keep breathing in, breathing out, and letting that poetry flow, Mary Lee. xo

  17. I'm sorry to hear about your mother. I hope that she is on her way to healing. Thank you for sharing your poem. I love the way you combined BC's lines with your own. Hugs to you and your mom.

  18. Anonymous10:08 PM

    I'm sorry to hear about your mother's fall, Mary Lee. Sending you both wishes for a quick recovery.
    The lines you chose from Billy Collins's own poems flow together perfectly. I especially love this:
    "As usual, I was thinking about the moments of the past,/letting my memory rush over them like water/
    rushing over the stones on the bottom of a stream."
    It's amazing what bubbles up from the past, isn't it?

  19. Beautiful imagery you've woven here Mary Lee,
    "why do we bother with the rest of the day,
    the swale of the afternoon,
    the sudden dip into evening,"
    I'm so glad we do, for we have your poem! And the ending unwinds and catches us carefully.
    Sending more thoughts out to you for you and your mom.

  20. What a wonderful poem you constructed, Mary Lee. I'll keep you and your mother in my thoughts.

  21. I hope your mother is all better soon. I'm sad for her and you that this happened. Fascinating word quilt you made of BC's words.

  22. Amazing how you wove Billy's words into a blanket of comfort, Mary Lee. Brilliant! Sending healing vibes to your mom. =)

  23. Anonymous1:01 AM

    Ack. I'm coming at this really late, because life just keeps whirling past me this year, and I'm struggling to get round the posts. I do hope your Mum is feeling much better now, and set on the road to recover.

  24. Mary Lee, I haven't commented in quite some time, but I'm still here, reading your beautiful poetry and the posts you and Franki write. I hope your mom is doing well. You amaze me with your poetry! No matter the form, your voice shines through. Billy Collins is a favorite of mine--I bet he'd love what you've done using his words. I miss your photograph posts. Thanks for all the beauty you share.


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