Wednesday, July 14, 2010

In the event most of your friends are quite wealthy

and doing fabulous things all summer long while you ration out the sprinkler time in your backyard and make innumerable trips to Yogurtland, finally giving up on the no candy toppings rule, you can read this poem by Billy Collins and be comforted and amused:


How agreeable it is not to be touring Italy this summer,
wandering her cities and ascending her torrid hill towns.
How much better to cruise these local, familiar streets,
fully grasping the meaning of every road sign and billboard
and all the sudden hand gestures of my compatriots.

There are no abbeys here, no crumbling frescoes or famous
domes and there is no need to memorize a succession
of kings or tour the dripping corners of a dungeon.
No need to stand around a sarcophagus, see Napoleon's
little bed on Elba, or view the bones of a saint under glass.

How much better to command the simple precinct of home
than be dwarfed by pillar, arch, and basilica.
Why hide my head in phrase books and wrinkled maps?
Why feed scenery into a hungry, one-eyed camera
eager to eat the world one monument at a time?

Instead of slouching in a cafe, ignorant of the word for ice,
I will head down to the coffee shop and the waitress
known as Dot. I will slide into the flow of the morning
paper, all language barriers down,
rivers of idiom running freely, eggs over easy on the way.

And after breakfast, I will not have to find someone
willing to photograph me with my arm around the owner.
I will not puzzle over the bill or record in a journal
what I had to eat and how the sun came in the window.
It is enough to climb back into the car
as it it were the great car of English itself
and sounding my loud vernacular horn, speed off
down a road that will never lead to Rome, not even Bologna.

-- from Sailing Alone Around the Room


  1. Though you know that I love to travel, this is a wonderful poem. It's enlightened and true. There really is no place like home.

  2. I just do love Billy Collins. His off-center sense of humor cracks me up every time.
    Good one.

  3. Plus, no washing your underwear out in the sink.

  4. I love the poem. And I'm with Ms. Moon--no washing out my, or anyone else's, underwear in the bathroom sink. I will add no trying to shampoo my hair in a bathroom that has only a tub with a separate faucet for hot and cold and never the twain should meet. I shall pretend that Lake Michigan is the Mediterranean Sea!!


  5. I so needed a good poem today.

  6. A wonderful poem, and so so true, speaking from recent experience.

    Traveling to me is not all it's cooked up to me. I often wonder when such happy snaps are taken during holidays about the disjuncture between how the person looks in the photo relative to how she feels later. The image never tells the whole truth. It's staged.

  7. I love this poem. My big holiday, trip, this summer, is a drive to visit my brother and his two children.



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