the lanyard

November 15, 2008

Tiana likes it when i explain what i like about a poem that i foward so here it is: 
i like the irony of this one and how we all do this on some level:  the small ugly gifts we gave as children (and sometimes still give) expecting them to be received with all sorts of gratitude; soaking in our own largess…  and how totally short the gifts fall, but they are accepted with joy nonetheless.  It’s kinda funny.  How much do we owe people, and how much are we owed, which can never be repaid, but somehow it all works out…
and thinking about it that way gives one so much gratitude, ya know?  it’s my favorite thing: grace…

ps — thanks mom & dad! 🙂


The Lanyard
by billy collins

The other day I was ricocheting slowly
off the blue walls of this room,
moving as if underwater from typewriter to piano,
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
when 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 into the past more suddenly —
a past where I sat at a workbench at a camp
by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid long 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 spoons of medicine to my lips,
laid 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 worn truth

that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took
the two-tone lanyard from my hand,
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.


2 Responses to “the lanyard”

  1. Dorcie said

    You are more than welcome!

  2. Tiana said

    Ohhh…I remember this one. Yes, I do like to hear your thoughts about the poems you send out. Your thoughts are good (usually) 😉 Love and miss you! I made a blog post. Now its your turn!!

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