I behold from the beach your crooked inviting fingers,
I believe you refuse to go back without feeling of me;
We must have a turn together..I undress...hurry me
out of sight of the land,
Cushion me soft..rock me in billowy drowse,
Dash me with amorous wet...I can repay you.
Compared to my all time favorite poem by Billy Collins:
The name of the is the first to go
followed obediently by the title, the plot,
the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel
which suddenly becomes one you have never read,
never even heard of,
as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor
decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,
to a little fishing village where there are no phones.
Long ago you kissed the names of the nine Muses goodbye
and watched the quadratic equation pack its bag,
and even now as you memorize the order of the planets,
something else is slipping away, a state flower perhaps,
the address of an uncle, the capital of Paraguay.
Whatever it is you are struggling to remember,
it is not poised on the tip of your tongue,
not even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen.
It has floated away down a dark mythological river
whose name begins with an L as far as you can recall,
well on your own way to oblivion where you will join those
who have even forgotten how to swim and how to ride a bicycle.
No wonder you rise in the middle of the night
to look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war.
No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted
out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.
I think what Collins does, putting drama in the quotidienne and heartbreak in the mundane is exceptional. And better still, it opens up poetry to someone who isn't going to sit down and read "Press close barebossomed night'! (line 435, Leaves of Grass, 1955). Whitman, when he self-published Leaves of Grass, wrote in his introduction that "The proof of a poet is that his country absorbs him as affectionately as he has absorbed it." By Whitman's own standards, Billy Collins is an American Poet of the highest order.