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Marginalia Analysis



Author: Poetry of Billy Collins Type: Poetry Views: 475

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Sometimes the notes are ferocious,

skirmishes against the author

raging along the borders of every page

in tiny black script.

If I could just get my hands on you,

Kierkegaard, or Conor Cruise O'Brien,

they seem to say,

I would bolt the door and beat some logic into your head.Other comments are more offhand, dismissive -

"Nonsense." "Please!" "HA!!" -

that kind of thing.

I remember once looking up from my reading,

my thumb as a bookmark,

trying to imagine what the person must look like

why wrote "Don't be a ninny"

alongside a paragraph in The Life of Emily Dickinson.Students are more modest

needing to leave only their splayed footprints

along the shore of the page.

One scrawls "Metaphor" next to a stanza of Eliot's.

Another notes the presence of "Irony"

fifty times outside the paragraphs of A Modest Proposal.Or they are fans who cheer from the empty bleachers,

Hands cupped around their mouths.

"Absolutely," they shout

to Duns Scotus and James Baldwin.

"Yes." "Bull's-eye." "My man!"

Check marks, asterisks, and exclamation points

rain down along the sidelines.And if you have managed to graduate from college

without ever having written "Man vs. Nature"

in a margin, perhaps now

is the time to take one step forward.We have all seized the white perimeter as our own

and reached for a pen if only to show

we did not just laze in an armchair turning pages;

we pressed a thought into the wayside,

planted an impression along the verge.Even Irish monks in their cold scriptoria

jotted along the borders of the Gospels

brief asides about the pains of copying,

a bird signing near their window,

or the sunlight that illuminated their page-

anonymous men catching a ride into the future

on a vessel more lasting than themselves.And you have not read Joshua Reynolds,

they say, until you have read him

enwreathed with Blake's furious scribbling.Yet the one I think of most often,

the one that dangles from me like a locket,

was written in the copy of Catcher in the Rye

I borrowed from the local library

one slow, hot summer.

I was just beginning high school then,

reading books on a davenport in my parents' living room,

and I cannot tell you

how vastly my loneliness was deepened,

how poignant and amplified the world before me seemed,

when I found on one pageA few greasy looking smears

and next to them, written in soft pencil-

by a beautiful girl, I could tell,

whom I would never meet-

"Pardon the egg salad stains, but I'm in love."






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