Saturday, May 7, 2011

There'll probably be at least a million of these posted, but

when I first read this poem in The New Yorker, I loved it completely.

Here you go, and

Happy Mother's Day!

The Lanyard

The other day I was ricocheting slowly
off the blue walls of this room,
moving as if underwater from typewriter to piano,
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
when 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 into the past more suddenly—
a past where I sat at a workbench at a camp
by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid long 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 sick room,
lifted spoons of medicine to my lips,
laid 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 worn truth
that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took
the two-tone lanyard from my hand,
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.

--Billy Collins


  1. thank you. this is lovely.

    Happy Mother's day to you

  2. I've heard him read this on Prairie Home Companion twice. At least. And honestly, I think it's one of my favorite poems.
    "She gave me life and milk from her breasts,
    And I gave her a lanyard."

    Cracks me up every time.

  3. This was beautiful.

    Made be smile.Made me cry.I think you know why.

    Happy Mothers Day my friend.You inspire me daily.Truly.

  4. i just love billy collins
    perfect, just perfect

  5. One of my favorites of all time ... In spite of all the words ;)

  6. He's a genius. I love his writing. Thank you for sharing this.

  7. I love it! We actually spent this weekend doing a practice run at sleepover camp with our girls who are going away for the first time this summer to camp for a week. We made lanyards and did archery and climbed the rock wall - it was terrific!



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