Wednesday, 2 October 2013

A Poem

I'm raising the bar around here today-I thought I'd share a piece of poetry by the former US Poet Laureate Billy Collins. I heard it for the first time just the other day, when a friend mentioned it-  it had been read out recently at his tenth grade daughter's 'Back to School' evening, and he'd loved it.

And after I'd asked Mr Google for the definition of a lanyard, (FYI - a rope or cord worn around the neck, shoulder or wrist to carry an object!), I loved it too.
Because for me, it did just what a great poem should- it choked me up and made me smile, all at the same time. Maybe it was the fact that as I read it, I was both mother and child, and a whole myriad of emotions sneaked up and caught me unawares...but mostly I just felt blessed.
 Hope it touches you too, Emx

The Lanyard 
by Billy Collins

The other day I was ricocheting slowly
off the blue walls of this room,
moving as if underwater from typewriter to piano,
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
when 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 into the past more suddenly-
a past where I sat at a workbench at a camp
by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid long 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 sick room,
lifted spoons of medicine to my lips,
laid 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 worn truth

that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took
the two-tone lanyard from my hand,
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.


  1. Poignant thoughts.
    If only he'd attached a whistle to the lanyard then it would have been a fair enough deal. And she wouldn't have had to shout BIIIIILLLLY come in for yer tea. She could have just whistled.

  2. Fab poem, but the whistle above is a great idea! :)