Author's Note: This is another poem from Mummeries, a chapbook of satirical poems. It was written following a reading and reception for Billy Collins at the University of Arizona Poetry Center, and first published in Calliope.
BILLY COLLINS, A MEDITATION
The other night after your reading I wanted to introduce myself—say something engaging, something that might interest you, but what could I have said? Then, observing you from a corner, it occurred to me you were taller than I thought, but by that time, the reception was over and you had gone. It would have been a good one-liner to give at your next reading, delivered stand-up style, droll, dead pan, how a reader said he thought you were taller than he imagined. It would have fallen in well with your self— deprecation that seems to amuse everyone. But this poem is about meditation, and your name, Billy, is the doorway to those riches. By the way, Billy is a diminution, a linguistic shrinkage, like Jimmy, or Mikey. No one takes a name like that seriously. It’s the name of a boy; non-threatening, a bit playful, bouncy perhaps, even smoothly androgynous. It’s not a man’s name, not the name of a septuagenarian. Yet it fits with the stage persona I’ve been observing, a slightly perplexed figure, baffled and intrigued by human folly, including his own, and at times a bit smug, tho’ it might be well-deserved, but that could be stretching it, like that invisible elf in the conical hat who occupies a corner of a classroom, smirking at the awkwardness and oddities of our kind, which leads this poem to its subject, meditation— a way around what monks call “monkey mind,” that state in which we arrive after our short interludes of mental stability. It’s like hearing an eternal engine in a garage, but which garage when there are a thousand empty ones, and still it grinds away and after we’ve run from one garage to another and have become more agitated, after years of this, we seek a way to ignore it, and we call it meditation.
©2021 Michael Gessner
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