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Tomes Analysis

Author: poem of Billy Collins Type: poem Views: 10

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There is a section in my library for death

and another for Irish history,

a few shelves for the poetry of China and Japan,

and in the center a row of imperturbable reference books,

the ones you can turn to anytime,

when the night is going wrong

or when the day is full of empty promise.

I have nothing against

the thin monograph, the odd query,

a note on the identity of Chekhov's dentist,

but what I prefer on days like these

is to get up from the couch,

pull down The History of the World,

and hold in my hands a book

containing nearly everything

and weighing no more than a sack of potatoes,

eleven pounds, I discovered one day when I placed it

on the black, iron scale

my mother used to keep in her kitchen,

the device on which she would place

a certain amount of flour,

a certain amount of fish.

Open flat on my lap

under a halo of lamplight,

a book like this always has a way

of soothing the nerves,

quieting the riotous surf of information

that foams around my waist

even though it never mentions

the silent labors of the poor,

the daydreams of grocers and tailors,

or the faces of men and women alone in single rooms-

even though it never mentions my mother,

now that I think of her again,

who only last year rolled off the edge of the earth

in her electric bed,

in her smooth pink nightgown

the bones of her fingers interlocked,

her sunken eyes staring upward

beyond all knowledge,

beyond the tiny figures of history,

some in uniform, some not,

marching onto the pages of this incredibly heavy book.


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