Saturday, December 17, 2011

Consolation in lieu of Resentment

Several times a year, when vacation times roll around, I post the following poem by Billy Collins in lieu of serving up a giant platter of resentment. As friends and family pack their bags for Cabo, Texas, New York City, skiing in Whistler, the sands of Fiji and Veranasi, India, I recite these words and head off to a day of lacrosse scrimmages in Mar Vista. And thanks to the ineffable beauty of poetry with humor thrown in, I am consoled.


How agreeable it is not to be touring Italy this summer,
wandering her cities and ascending her torrid hilltowns.
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-eyes camera
eager to eat the world one monument at a time?

In stead 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 if 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.

-- Billy Collins


  1. Oh, I do love this poem!

    And for some reason my word verification is unwives.

  2. oh i love i love i love! thank you elizabeth, more than you know.

  3. Yay! Great poem. Our vacations consist of going to my parents' house in Vermont, which is nice, but no Italy for us, either.

  4. And I always remind myself that many people are thrilled to fly to our hometowns to vacation during the holidays. And we get to live here year round!

  5. Ah the bliss of the familiar, and of the safe domestic scene, of home and the ordinary. Thanks for this poem, Elizabeth, for sharing it with us. It brings me back to earth during this crazy time.

  6. I'm packing up my bags for staying-home-in-Michigan.

    Even though I'd love a tropical getaway, I'm also really grateful to be able to avoid the obligation of travel-to-faraway family; Christmas alone (with Jonah) isn't so bad.

    I will be glad when school starts again, though.

  7. I love him
    He says it perfectly
    But I wish for you to be able to go somewhere anyhow
    One of these days



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