Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Past, A poem by Billy Collins

There is no doubt we all had one,
waist-deep as we are in the evidence of diaries,
home movies and strange names in old address books,
not to mention Architecture and Geology,
stone clocks that measure the deeper past.

And we have anecdotes, warped beyond recognition,
and a scar on the chin from a fall,
but nothing to compare with those few vivid moments
which are vivid for no reason at all --
a face at the children's party, or just a blue truck,
moments that have no role in any story,
worthless to a biographer, but mysterious
and rivaling the colors of the present.

Remembering them is like reading a poem
that begins by carrying us, zombie-like,
down basement stairs as if to leave us in the dark
feeling the air for a light cord,

but then a little metaphor begins to grow
with such details that is becomes a place,
a lake, for instance, cold and pine-bordered,
which we could dive into and feel nothing,
or a sunny white room where we could live
without ever having to be alive.

From The Apple That Astonished Paris: Poems by Billy Collins, (University of Arkansas Press, 2006)