I don’t know what made me think of this poem tonight. Perhaps I’m just missing my friend. I wrote it several years ago after he and I went to a Billy Collins reading. For whatever reason, tonight seems like a good night to let it see daylight again.
Waiting for Billy Collins
We are in the stand-by line
for a sold out poetry reading;
(now you know we live in Boston. . .)
Ten or twelve of us chain
Down the side of the building
Like beads waiting to be strung into
A necklace of hope.
Almost everyone has a paperback in hand —
But not of the poet we have come to see;
(that would be uncool. . .)
The books are credentials for the conversation.
We flash them like driver’s licenses in a bar,
Giving ourselves permission to become
Intoxicated on metaphor.
We toss around the names of poets,
Both famous and unfamiliar.
(I know someone you don’t know. . .)
We do agree we don’t understand
Wallace Stevens but he’s good, yes, very good;
And, of course, we must make mention of
The red wheelbarrow.
The guy behind us likes
To dress up like Walt Whitman,
(coming soon to a school near you. . .)
And he seems to think that every
Poem we discuss is about him;
No one else in our quixotic queue appears
To have come to that conclusion.
I am standing with Jack
Between Walt and a guy we’d rather talk to;
(I brought a friend instead of a book. . .)
We are each other’s ticket into the evening.
Yes, we came to hear the poet,
But if we don’t get in the theater
We have lines of our own to deliver
At a nearby pub. The important thing
Is to get to spend time together.
(surely someone won’t show up. . .)
But I keep hoping we two can enter the ark
And set sail on the poet’s words,
Hearing each syllable of hope and humor
As metaphor of our friendship.