Vegan No. 1

There's a certain sense
of overwhelming irony
to the modern-day
vegans.

They must use non-GMO soap
gluten-free shampoo,
and fair-trade
toilet paper,

yet they'll shovel
just about any
toxic goo or illicit substance
into their body with little thought.

God forbid
they end up with bread
in their hair while
they fight emphysema at 40.

Loons of the Square Table

We almost looked sane,
sitting two by two per side,
each reading
and writing,
hiding split personalities
and wacky
cigarettes behind our ears.

A waitress walked
by and smiled,
and I felt sorry
she did not know
who we really were,

or that the one
with purple flowers
on his socks could crack
at any second,

tearing out her pink
hair and running
through the streets
like Charlie Manson
on parole
at last.

Cheating

She caught me
just sitting there,
by the window,

looking out
at a couple
of chipmunks and

a pair of rosebushes,
wondering
about love,

why some
things never seem
to work out,

and others
happen
all too easily.

Nantucket (W.C. Williams)

Flowers through the window
lavender and yellow

changed by white curtains-
Smell of cleanliness-

Sunshine of late afternoon-
On the glass tray-

a glass pitcher, the tumbler
turned down, by which

A key is lying - And the
immaculate white bed

 

© William Carlos Wiliams

Cold Fact

I

It didn't really make
much sense,

but it was the 
kind of thing
you didn't question

like why is the sky
not green
and how did that Jesus guy
really walk on water?

II

I thought the
flies would prefer
it outside,
but I was wrong.

Even the days are
cold now, and
they like to stay inside
with me.

On Poetry

"We paint
with words,"
he proclaimed,

and I couldn't 
help but let
out a little chuckle.

He wasn't
a particularly
funny guy,
though I
found the idea

of dipping my brush
in a palette of adjectives
somewhat amusing.

I don't think he 
looked past his
metaphor or 
realized the impossibility
of mixing
nouns and verbs
like 
red and blue,

laying them
beautifully on paper
in one smooth stroke
of purple nerbs.

Baby Listening (Billy Collins)

According to the guest information directory, 
baby listening is a service offered by this seaside hotel.

Baby listening--not a baby who happens to be listening,
as I thought when I first checked in.

Leave the receiver off the hook,
the directory advises,
and your infant can be monitored by the staff,

though the staff, the entry continues,
cannot be held responsible for the well-being
of the baby in question .

Fair enough, someone to listen to the baby.

But the phrase did suggest a baby who is listening,
lying there in the room next to mine
listening to my pen scratching against the page,

or a more advanced baby who has crawled
down the hallway of the hotel
and is pressing its tiny, curious ear against my door.

Lucky for some of us,
poetry is a place where both are true at once,
where meaning only one thing at a time spells
    malfunction.

Poetry wants to have the baby who is listening at my
    door
as well as the baby who is being listened to,
quietly breathing by the nearby telephone.

And it also wants the baby
who is making sounds of distress
into the curved receiver lying in the crib

while the girl at reception has just stepped out
to have a smoke with her boyfriend
in the dark by the great sway and wash of the North
    Sea.

Poetry wants that baby, too,
even a little more than it wants the others.

 

© Billy Collins