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The Monday Poem > Monday Poem - The Lanyard by Billy Collins (24th August 2015)

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message 1: by Gill (new)

Gill | 5720 comments Here's a poem by Billy Collins. I'm growing increasingly fond of his poetry:


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.


message 2: by [deleted user] (new)

Wow, Gill. That is a great poem. Very powerful. I feel like emotional for the little boy and it has also made me think of all the rubbish I have proudly presented my parents over the years!


message 3: by Alannah (new)

Alannah Clarke (alannahclarke) | 11966 comments Mod
I have never read this poem, but it was very powerful. I was really hit by the imagery in it from the first stanza. Lovely choice Gill.


message 4: by Noorilhuda (new)

Noorilhuda | 185 comments wow, the end made me speechless. TFS Gill.


message 5: by Greg (new)

Greg | 7684 comments Mod
I like it Gill - there's truth there in this boy's taking for granted what he's been given and his faith in his simple offering.


message 6: by Leslie (new)

Leslie | 15985 comments Great choice Gill! I like it a lot and what a fun little literary allusion to Proust & his madeleine buried in there :)


message 7: by Diane S ☔ (new)

Diane S ☔ Love his poetry and this one is so touching.


message 8: by Jenny (new)

Jenny (jeoblivion) | 4869 comments That's beautiful. It actually made me tear up a little. Very touching. Thank you Gill!


message 9: by Alice (new)

Alice Poon (alice_poon) It's what's between the lines that is so touching! Good selection, Gill!


message 10: by Shirley (new)

Shirley | 4177 comments I love this poem! Very touching, especially the ending. I nearly chose this for my poem a couple of weeks back.


message 11: by Gill (new)

Gill | 5720 comments Glad you are enjoying this poem. I very much like it; I think it is deceptively simple.

I like the way that all the movement and hurry of the first stanza is slowed down by the trigger that reminds the 'teller' about his boyhood.

I keep going back to the final stanza, which I think is wonderful.

Interesting that you nearly chose this poem, Shirley!


message 12: by [deleted user] (new)

Gill, great selection! I really like Billy Collins. This poem is especially moving.


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