I ask you – Billy Collins

I ask you

What scene would I want to be enveloped in
more than this one,
an ordinary night at the kitchen table,
floral wallpaper pressing in,
white cabinets full of glass,
the telephone silent,
a pen tilted back in my hand?

It gives me time to think
about all that is going on outside–
leaves gathering in corners,
lichen greening the high grey rocks,
while over the dunes the world sails on,
huge, ocean-going, history bubbling in its wake.

But beyond this table
there is nothing that I need,
not even a job that would allow me to row to work,
or a coffee-colored Aston Martin DB4
with cracked green leather seats.

No, it’s all here,
the clear ovals of a glass of water,
a small crate of oranges, a book on Stalin,
not to mention the odd snarling fish
in a frame on the wall,
and the way these three candles–
each a different height–
are singing in perfect harmony.

So forgive me
if I lower my head now and listen
to the short bass candle as he takes a solo
while my heart
thrums under my shirt–
frog at the edge of a pond–
and my thoughts fly off to a province
made of one enormous sky
and about a million empty branches.

Billy Collins – American Poet Laureate 2001 – 2003

I love how Billy Collins takes the ordinary in life and colours it with his wild imagination combining the seemingly disconnected everyday scraps of existence into a worthy world of word pleasure – laying his work before us in his own inimitable style – always there is a touch of the unusual in his offerings as well as a philosophical acceptance of the foibles in human nature – plus that essential ingredient subtle humour.

And looking at the above ‘I ask you’ poem. I do like poetry that poses a question – even if he is talking to himself – isn’t it marvellous when we are content where we are in life?

And considering the second stanza –

while over the dunes the world sails on,
huge, ocean-going, history bubbling in its wake.

And of course the world does sail on the ‘waters’ of the past – but hopefully we make a bit of headway as the future disappears behind us and we add to the flow – but let the world sail on – and not worry about all the problems that beset our troubled world!

He shows his poetic skill to give the contrast between a few moments in a kitchen compared to all history … and those few ordinary moments, where you have time to yourself and to think, can be so precious and rejuvenating in the busy world of today.

Enjoy your own presence in the warm comfort and intimacy of your own being – where ever you are – and so I ask you to just sit back for a few moments … and I hope you can take a deep breath and slowly say to yourself life is very agreeable, in fact quite beautiful!

Your word in my ear ...

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