BLUES FOR BILLY COLLINS

Tell me first it’s a poem. Otherwise

I won’t know what is hitting my eyes.

You are so beautiful and I am a fool

to be in love with you

is a theme that keeps coming up

in songs and poems.

There seems to be no room for variation.

I have never heard anyone sing

I am so beautiful

and you are a fool to be in love with me.

I note Mr. Collins’ points one by one

Regarding love songs, and when he’s done,

With all his points agreeing,

He shifts to a nightclub, a singer named Johhny, a sax.

What exactly am I seeing?

Mr. Collins bravely states the facts.

For no particular reason this afternoon

I am listening to Johnny Hartman

whose dark voice can curl around

the concepts on love, beauty, and foolishness

like no one else can.

It feels like smoke curling up from a cigarette

someone left burning on a baby grand piano

around three o’ clock in the morning;

smoke that billows up into the bright lights

while out there in the darkness

some of the beautiful fools have gathered

around little tables to listen,

some with their eyes closed,

others leaning forward into the music

as if it were holding them up,

or twirling the loose ice in a glass,

slipping by degrees into a rhythmic dream.

The Iowa Workshop with her beautiful fools

Revolutionizes poetry in the schools

As Mr. Collins makes us feel

The beautiful fools are beautiful and real.

Tell me first it’s a poem. Otherwise

I won’t know what is hitting my eyes.

So it’s a poem, after all, one of those

Which is, let’s face it, prose,

But it’s too late. Music is lost in the word.

Prose that wants to be a poem is absurd.

Yes, there is all this foolish beauty,

borne beyond midnight,

that has no desire to go home,

especially now when everyone in the room

is watching the large man with the tenor sax

that hangs from his neck like a golden fish.

He moves forward to the edge of the stage

and hands the instrument down to me

and nods that I should play.

So I put the mouthpiece to my lips

and blow into it with all my living breath.

The Iowa workshop poem sure can wail.

The beautiful fool has me, and will not fail.

The prose is blowing golden sequences that seem

The innumerable flickering sequences of a dream.

The humanities! The curricula! The school!

Mr. Collins is wise! Too wise to circumvent the fool.

We are all so foolish,

my long bebop solo begins by saying,

so damn foolish

we have become beautiful without even

knowing it.

And so the Iowa effort ends.

Midnight. All the little tables are friends.

We read prose without knowing it’s prose.

A fool picks up the tenor sax. And blows.

 

 

 

3 Comments

  1. maryangeladouglas said,

    January 22, 2019 at 9:48 pm

    I really really llke this. Sorry this sounds like a Sally Field moment. Great articulation makes it hard to say anything and this is great articulation and a real poem.

    I wrote this today, excuse me for saying but I am writing for ghosts most of the time;I have to make some effort not to do that. now and then.

    YOU BARREL THROUGH YOUR LISTS OF THINGS TO DO

    you barrel through your lists of things to do
    feeding the ghosts of cats mysterious cream
    while life like a ticking dream moves on

    and you are caught in that stream
    my heart, you ancient valentine
    no matter what you wish

    or you opine
    dining on cheese and crackers to get through
    with everything by noon;

    creasing the folds in the wonderland blue
    continuing to be you, you think you can
    live on till dawn task after task

    brushing aside the inconvenient wings
    of colours floating in,
    from the Unseen

    to fall gardenia petaled in the grass

    when God keeps giving you hints
    in a starry, mixed up tense even while you sense
    the sunflower clocks are sequin weeping a

    Gold that cannot last
    not forgetting the gears of light
    the zinnias meshed

    the fireworks over the parks
    in stops and starts
    all morning glory, the pier glass folds

    though ever the clouds are new,
    the year freshly painted:

    I dreamed that we were snow
    and were not cognizant.

    I would make lists of roses, now, of aureoles
    if I could remember:
    faint, on a manifest of silver

    all the names.
    or process all the claims.
    making a note in distinctive handwriting

    of how it feels to bloom
    when you come late to the afternoon
    all Alice at the garden door,

    remotely elegiac.
    the wrong size, always.

    mary angela douglas 23 january 2019

  2. noochinator said,

    January 7, 2020 at 10:39 pm

    DFW reads a piece about a poet based on Billy Collins:


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