The Art of Drowning


I wonder how it all got started, this business
about seeing your life flash before your eyes
while you drown, as if panic, or the act of submergence,
could startle time into such compression, crushing
decades in the vice of your desperate, final seconds.

After falling off a steamship or being swept away
in a rush of floodwaters, wouldn't you hope
for a more leisurely review, an invisible hand
turning the pages of an album of photographs-
you up on a pony or blowing out candles in a conic hat.

How about a short animated film, a slide presentation?
Your life expressed in an essay, or in one model photograph?
Wouldn't any form be better than this sudden flash?
Your whole existence going off in your face
in an eyebrow-singeing explosion of biography-
nothing like the three large volumes you envisioned.

Survivors would have us believe in a brilliance
here, some bolt of truth forking across the water,
an ultimate Light before all the lights go out,
dawning on you with all its megalithic tonnage.
But if something does flash before your eyes
as you go under, it will probably be a fish,

a quick blur of curved silver darting away,
having nothing to do with your life or your death.
The tide will take you, or the lake will accept it all
as you sink toward the weedy disarray of the bottom,
leaving behind what you have already forgotten,
the surface, now overrun with the high travel of clouds.


覧Original Message 覧
From: Margaret Coady
To: Dien Bien Me
Sent: Thursday, October 31, 2002 12:12 PM
Subject: FW: litany

> Thought you might like this...
> 覧覧覧
> LITANY, by Billy Collins,
> Poet Laureate of the U.S.
> [Feb. 2002 issue of Poetry]
> You are the bread and the knife,
> the crystal goblet and the wine.
> You are the dew on the morning grass
> and the burning wheel of the sun.
> You are the white apron of the baker
> and the marsh birds suddenly in flight.
> However, you are not the wind in the orchard,
> the plums on the counter,
> or the house of cards.
> And you are certainly not the pine-scented air.
> There is just no way you are the pine-scented air.
> It is possible that you are the fish under the bridge,
> maybe even the pigeon on the general's head,
> but you are not even close
> to being the field of cornflowers at dusk.
> And a quick look in the mirror will show
> that you are neither the boots in the corner
> nor the boat asleep in its boathouse.
> It might interest you to know,
> speaking of the plentiful imagery of the world,
> that I am the sound of rain on the roof.
> I also happen to be the shooting star,
> the evening paper blowing down an alley,
> and the basket of chestnuts on the kitchen table.
> I am also the moon in the trees
> and the blind woman's tea cup.
> But don't worry, I am not the bread and the knife.
> You are still the bread and the knife.
> You will always be the bread and the knife,
> not to mention the crystal goblet and somehow the wine.

From: Cold Bacon

To: Margaret Coady
Sent: Friday, November 01, 2002 4:29 PM

dude. i could write this.

wait, no i couldn't. but that's not the point. who's picking poet laureates these days? E?

he's no Robert Frost. that's for sure. he's amusing and clever in a post-modern sort of way, except that post-modernism is, like, dead now. nowaways, people want effusive sincerity with a hint of restraint. that's what's in now.

i'm just not buying it, and i don't care if he gives the best head of any poet laureate this decade.

unless this means we won't have to listen to robert penske on T.V. anymore. in that case, it would definitely have been worth it all the while.

From: Margaret Coady
To: Cold Bacon
Sent: Friday, November 01, 2002 4:29 PM

No kidding. Couldn't agree more.


Buy his book.
Look I don't care which one, just use my link.


Visit This Dumb Site

You will regret it

Ode to Billy Collins      Poems