Every mother’s day I tend to balance my general dislike for the Hallmark Holidays with my overwhelming love, thanks, and appreciation for my mom. My balance usually ends up with me calling her, something I should do more often. While in grad school I was lucky enough to attend a poetry reading by then Poet Laureate Billy Collins. I like Billy Collins a great deal. One of my favorite poems of his is called “The Lanyard.”
OK, time to connect the thoughts in the previous paragraph. As Apparent Dip’s mother’s day offering, I bring you “The Lanyard” by Billy Collins. You can hear him read this here, or on this excellent CD. As a copyright note, I am only putting the text up because NPR did, and I figure if NPR thinks it is OK, then so does Apparent Dip. I think most poems are best listened to, so check out the links above.
The Lanyard – by Billy Collins
The other day as I was ricocheting slowly
off the pale blue walls of this room,
bouncing from typewriter to piano,
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
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 more suddenly into the past —
a past where I sat at a workbench at a camp
by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid 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 sickroom,
lifted teaspoons of medicine to my lips,
set 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 archaic truth
that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took
the two-tone lanyard from my hands,
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.