Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The Lanyard

Mother's Day is approaching. I ran across this poem by Billy Collins.

I'm not sure if this is the same Billy Collins that beat me up when I was in the third grade as I was walking home from school. If it is, I'm glad he has discovered a way to vent by writing poetry.

His poem struck the same nerve in me that he must have felt.

Those hot July & August days when I was a pup were supplemented by walking to the elementary school and spending time with some older kids that were hired (or drafted by their parents) to entertain us squirts by teaching Arts & Crafts.

Now by Arts & Crafts I mean, how to make potholders from circles of elastic fabric and how to make lanyards. Of course potholders were very useful, but totally uncool. However lanyards flat-out rocked.

I present Billy Collin's poem, The Lanyard.

The other day as I was ricocheting slowlyoff the blue walls of this room bouncing from typewriter to piano from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,

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 more suddenly into the past.

A past where I sat at a workbench at a camp by a deep Adirondack lake learning how to braid 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 teaspoons of medicine to my lips, set cold facecloths on my forehead 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 archaic truth, that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took the two-toned lanyard from my hands,

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."

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