Monday, May 9, 2011


A FEW HOURS LATE FOR MOTHER'S DAY ... but a poem worth reading nevertheless.

"The Lanyard" by Billy Collins


The other day as I was ricocheting slowly

off the pale 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 sickroom,

lifted teaspoons of medicine to my lips,

set cold face-cloths on my forehead,

and 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-tone 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.

In the contemporary child's world a 'lanyard' is a woven plastic keyring attatchment ... and, if you ever went to summer camp, you probably made one too. 



3 comments:

Norma said...

A very beautiful poem Monica, thanks for sharing. And of course a lovely photo as well, you never disappoint.

Re yr comment on my blog - sorry but you'll have to hang around downside up for a while longer but I am keeping your predicament in mind ;)

Debbie said...

One of my favorite Collins poems!!!

Debbie said...

One of my favorite Collins poems!!