Remember the 1340's? We were doing a dance called the Catapult.
You always wore brown, the color craze of the decade,
and I was draped in one of those capes that were popular,
the ones with unicorns and pomegranates in needlework.
Everyone would pause for beer and onions in the afternoon,
and at night we would play a game called "Find the Cow."
Everything was hand-lettered then, not like today.

Where has the summer of 1572 gone? Brocade and sonnet
marathons were the rage. We used to dress up in the flags
of rival baronies and conquer one another in cold rooms of stone.
Out on the dance floor we were all doing the Struggle
while your sister practiced the Daphne all alone in her room.
We borrowed the jargon of farriers for our slang.
These days language seems transparent a badly broken code.

The 1790's will never come again. Childhood was big.
People would take walks to the very tops of hills
and write down what they saw in their journals without speaking.
Our collars were high and our hats were extremely soft.
We would surprise each other with alphabets made of twigs.
It was a wonderful time to be alive, or even dead.

I am very fond of the period between 1815 and 1821.
Europe trembled while we sat still for our portraits.
And I would love to return to 1901 if only for a moment,
time enough to wind up a music box and do a few dance steps,
or shoot me back to 1922 or 1941, or at least let me
recapture the serenity of last month when we picked
berries and glided through afternoons in a canoe.

Even this morning would be an improvement over the present.
I was in the garden then, surrounded by the hum of bees
and the Latin names of flowers, watching the early light
flash off the slanted windows of the greenhouse
and silver the limbs on the rows of dark hemlocks.

As usual, I was thinking about the moments of the past,
letting my memory rush over them like water
rushing over the stones on the bottom of a stream.
I was even thinking a little about the future, that place
where people are doing a dance we cannot imagine,
a dance whose name we can only guess.

Billy Collins


Anonymous said…
It's a New Year.
I hug you all. With all the love I can give you.
Anonymous said…
Sigh. Lovely.
Interesting. I love the differences between then and now. I think each era has its plusses and minuses, even now.

Happy new year!
Anonymous said…
Thank you. Just thank you for that.
Unknown said…

Happy New Year!
Chris said…
I recently finished a book that took place in the 1300 time period (The Hawk and the Dove, good read!). I really enjoyed taking a glimps into that time, made me want to visit for a day.

Happy New Year.
Anonymous said…
You. Read. Billy Collins.

He is one of my heroes (I'm a creative writing major, and my primary genre is Poetry). Have you read "The Art of Drowning"? It's lovely--one of my favorites of his books.

-Mary Katherine
Unknown said…
Here's to a happy, healthy new year full of joy and success and an abundance of love all around!
KPB said…
OK, enough of the erudite posts, you're making me feel very very stupid.

And I believe that dance of which he refers is of an interpretive nature. Featuring excessive use of jazz hands, wide-eyed earnest expressions and preferably nude body stockings.
Mary said…
That was fantastic. Just fantastic.

Off to look him up now. You are costing me a fortune woman!!
Anonymous said…

I love this guy. It's a great read on the first day of the new year.

Happy New Year to you all,
TheOneTrueSue said…
This made me laugh and smile. Happy New Year BB!
Lisa said…
Wow... I really like that.

Happy New Year to you!
Lisa said…
By the way, this is the second time I ran into Billy Collins on the Internet in the last day. The other place was here..

LK said…
I do love Billy Collins' work.
might I add...? said…
Yes. Billy Collins. Love his work.
Thanks for sharing.