I might as well begin by saying how much I like the title.
It gets me right away because I’m in a workshop now
so immediately the poem has my attention,
like the Ancient Mariner grabbing me by the sleeve.
And I like the first couple of stanzas,
the way they establish this mode of self-pointing
that runs through the whole poem
and tells us that words are food thrown down
on the ground for other words to eat.
I can almost taste the tail of the snake
in its own mouth,
if you know what I mean.
But what I’m not sure about is the voice,
which sounds in places very casual, very blue jeans,
but other times seems standoffish,
professorial in the worst sense of the word
like the poem is blowing pipe smoke in my face.
But maybe that’s just what it wants to do.
What I did find engaging were the middle stanzas,
especially the fourth one.
I like the image of clouds flying like lozenges
which gives me a very clear picture.
And I really like how this drawbridge operator
just appears out of the blue
with his feet up on the iron railing
and his fishing pole jigging—I like jigging—
a hook in the slow industrial canal below.
I love slow industrial canal below. All those l’s.
Maybe it’s just me,
but the next stanza is where I start to have a problem.
I mean how can the evening bump into the stars?
And what’s an obbligato of snow?
Also, I roam the decaffeinated streets.
At that point I’m lost. I need help.
The other thing that throws me off,
and maybe this is just me,
is the way the scene keeps shifting around.
First, we’re in this big aerodrome
and the speaker is inspecting a row of dirigibles,
which makes me think this could be a dream.
Then he takes us into his garden,
the part with the dahlias and the coiling hose,
though that’s nice, the coiling hose,
but then I’m not sure where we’re supposed to be.
The rain and the mint green light,
that makes it feel outdoors, but what about this wallpaper?
Or is it a kind of indoor cemetery?
There’s something about death going on here.
In fact, I start to wonder if what we have here
is really two poems, or three, or four,
or possibly none.
But then there’s that last stanza, my favorite.
This is where the poem wins me back,
especially the lines spoken in the voice of the mouse.
I mean we’ve all seen these images in cartoons before,
but I still love the details he uses
when he’s describing where he lives.
The perfect little arch of an entrance in the baseboard,
the bed made out of a curled-back sardine can,
the spool of thread for a table.
I start thinking about how hard the mouse had to work
night after night collecting all these things
while the people in the house were fast asleep,
and that gives me a very strong feeling,
a very powerful sense of something.
But I don’t know if anyone else was feeling that.
Maybe that was just me.
Maybe that’s just the way I read it.
— "Workshop" by Billy Collins
The first thing you want to do is turn your mirrors around
to make them reflect the paint on the walls
instead of the way you look right now.
That glass doesn’t tell the truth any more than your magazines do
so take a little break from watching yourself shrink and follow me
to the kitchen. Now that there are no reflective surfaces to distract you
open the fridge and find your Courage. It’s sometimes next to the eggs
but you might also look behind the milk
where it can be pushed to the very back and lie forgotten
unseen in the chilly dark corner until it expires.
Next you’ll need a little Confidence. Try looking in the spice rack
between cayenne and sage, there should be something
you won’t hear about on the tv or in most modern movies
and it’s definitely not one you’ll learn in school.
It just so happens to be the most important ingredient,
so make sure to use it in everything you make.
The first thing we’ll do is get a pot and fill it with everything you’ve got,
all the wishes and goals, numbers and sizes you had been starving for
and throw them in. Every image and comparison you ever made
should follow suit, including any negative words you may have used
that was supposed to be motivation.
We’ll add some salt and boil it down until it’s nothing more
than a tar-like substance you can use to fertilize your new garden.
It does wonders for your Strength and Self-Appreciation
and even your Pride, which will bloom in the Spring,
and come in handy when June rolls around.
This takes a lot of time and practice to get down the routine,
but when you’re realistic and you go slow, something inside will change;
you’ll know what it means to really love you
and how it feels to never be alone when you’re by yourself
so no more cooking for two or three and dumping it in the trash—
Tonight we’re making a meal for one, but if we follow the recipe right
you’ll have enough leftovers to last the year.
she used to laugh with water damage in her mouth, teeth rotting
to the throat, to the lungs that sing like crows in October,
teeth filled with gasps and blackberries, making my lips berries too,
smeared and sweet with seeds too ripe to peel and eat
so we buried what we saw in the sand and under scabs on our skin
where those flowers looked like bruises being kissed by hummingbirds with silver bellies,
the ones she used to mimic when she licked the hurt off my knees
still they lit candles as if it all had meaning,
as if we had to wonder about her laughing
while they were boiling in the corner,
whispering axiom, maxim, dictum,
when all I heard was anxious, madness,
what if it all had meaning, what if we should have wondered why
the moth swooped into the flame to be swallowed in half,
ignoring God with earnest abandon, choosing to take life by the mouth,
something else she was good at
like blowing out candles, never eating crow
and making people afraid
of how much they loved her
So you’ve gone and built a moat around your heart
and a drawbridge of heartstrings too fragile to cross,
convinced you can turn its vaulted chambers to a castle,
and have it a fortress locked deep inside your chest.
Your ribs have turned over like palisades,
the muscles hammered across them drawn tense and ready,
assuming everyone is a Trojan horse with a hidden battering ram
waiting to crush through your stone walls and crucify you.
While you stand watching for conquerors from your tower above,
I swim to your shores in search of a break in the armor to crawl inside
and live in the alleyways of your heart,
to study your language and learn your history
with the hope of becoming a citizen of you.
She’s picking figs off Douglas firs and playing the cello in Morse code,
trying to dance her way out of the map drawn on her mother’s face,
and burning oregano in the backyard, hoping to attract something new
into her parking space life.
Anonymous asked: maybe i've never been in love, but i do love the way the sun seems to shine, not in the sky, but out of her eyes.
a murder of crows.
a company of parrots.
an ambush of tigers.
a congregation of alligators.
a cloud of bats.
a convocation of eagles.
a business of ferrets.
an army of frogs.
a stand of flamingos.
an array of hedgehogs.
a siege of herrons.
a leap of leopards.
a parliament of owls.
an ostentation of peacocks.
a cackle of hyenas.
a pounce of cats.
a bed of eels.
a pantheon of gods.
a loneliness of humans