Sunday, March 01, 2009

March 1st



Ye Gods, where does the time go? How can it be the first of March already? It was just Christmas last week! When I logged into my email account this morning and saw "March 1," I was truly appalled. The silver lining part was that it reminded me of a poem by Billy Collins and I have now reread his wonderful collection Sailing Alone Around the Room.

Have you read much Billy Collins, Dear Reader?

Here's the poem that my early morning discovery of time flying brought to mind:



Nostalgia

Remember the 1340s? We were doing a dance called
the Catapult.
You always wore brown, the color craze of the decade,
and I was draped in one of those capes that were popular,
the ones with unicorns and pomegranates in needlework.
Everyone would pause for beer and onions in the afternoon,
and at night we would play a game called "Find the Cow."
Everything was hand-lettered then, not like today.

Where has the summer of 1572 gone? Brocade and sonnet
marathons were all the rage. We used to dress up in the flags
of rival baronies and conquer one another in cold rooms
of stone.
Out on the dance floor we were all doing the Struggle
while your sister practiced the Daphne all alone in her room.
We borrowed the jargon of farriers for our slang.
These days language seems transparent, a badly broken code.

The 1790s will never come again. Childhood was big.
People would take walks to the very tops of hills
and write down wheat they saw in their journals without
speaking.
Our collars were high and our hats were extremely soft.
We could surprise each other with alphabets made of twigs.
It was a wonderful time to be alive, or even dead.

I am very fond of the period between 1815 and 1821.
Europe trembled while we sat still for our portraits.
And I would love to return to 1901 if only for a moment,
time enough to wind up a music box and do a
few dance steps,
or shoot me back to 1922 or 1941, or at least let me
recapture the serenity of last month when we picked
berries and glided through afternoons in a canoe.

Even this morning would be an improvement over
the present.
I was in the garden then, surrounded by the hum of bees
and the Latin names of flowers, watching the early light
flash off the slanted windows of the greenhouse
and silver the limbs on the rows of dark hemlocks.

As usual, I was thinking about the moments of the past,
letting my memory rush over them like water
rushing over the stones on the bottom of a stream.
I was even thinking a little about the future, that place
where people are doing a dance we cannot imagine,
a dance whose name we can only guess.

--Billy Collins

2 comments:

LK said...

oh, I love this one- one of my favorites of his

diane said...

Time sure does fly, more so when you're older.