William Taylor Collins

Here you will find the Poem Tomes of poet William Taylor Collins


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.