Sunday, September 28, 2008


Poetry was never really my cup of tea. I took "Poetry" in high school and it was a killer to my G.P.A. I enjoyed a few of the classical poets like Yeats and Byron, but for the most part the pressure of having to find symbolism and write essays about poems chosen by the teacher made me want to just shoot myself in the head.

Now that I am an adult and can read what I wish, I have read some poetry that I really like. I subscribe to the Writer's Almanac with Garrison Keillor and a new poem is sent to my inbox on a daily basis. A few years ago I was introduced to Billy Collins through the Writer's Alamanac and I think he is my favorite poet. He writes with humor, even on serious topics, that makes reading his poems more fun. This is my favorite...

The Lanyard

The other day as I was ricocheting slowly

off the pale blue walls of this room,

bouncing from typewriter to piano,

from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,

I found myself in the L section of the dictionary

where my eyes fell upon the word lanyard.

No cookie nibbled by a French novelist

could send one more suddenly into the past --

a past where I sat at a workbench at a camp

by a deep Adirondack lake

learning how to braid thin plastic strips

into a lanyard, a gift for my mother.

I had never seen anyone use a lanyard

or wear one, if that’s what you did with them,

but that did not keep me from crossing

strand over strand again and again

until I had made a boxy

red and white lanyard for my mother.

She gave me life and milk from her breasts,

and I gave her a lanyard.

She nursed me in many a sickroom,

lifted teaspoons of medicine to my lips,

set cold face-cloths on my forehead,

and then led me out into the airy light

and taught me to walk and swim,

and I, in turn, presented her with a lanyard.

Here are thousands of meals, she said,

and here is clothing and a good education.

And here is your lanyard, I replied,

which I made with a little help from a counselor.

Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,

strong legs, bones and teeth,

and two clear eyes to read the world, she whispered,

and here, I said, is the lanyard I made at camp.

And here, I wish to say to her now,

is a smaller gift--not the archaic truth

that you can never repay your mother,

but the rueful admission that when she took

the two-tone lanyard from my hands,

I was as sure as a boy could be

that this useless, worthless thing I wove

out of boredom would be enough to make us even.

I hope you find it as good as I do.


  1. Oh my...I remember making those boxy lanyards and key chains.
    That was very funny and well written.
    I have several lanyards from my years as a public servant...each with a boring story.

  2. Funny, but so true. How DO you thank your mom??