Recently I discovered the poem “Morning” by Billy Collins. I love it in the same way that I love the peaceful verses of Yeats’ “Innisfree”. Ironically, I first read “Morning” late at night, because I couldn’t sleep and I thought poetry might soothe me. Oh well — the time was past midnight, so it was technically morning, right? Here is the poem, in full:
“Why do we bother with the rest of the day,
the swale of the afternoon,
the sudden dip into evening,
then night with his notorious perfumes,
his many-pointed stars?
This is the best—
throwing off the light covers,
feet on the cold floor,
and buzzing around the house on espresso—
maybe a splash of water on the face,
a palmful of vitamins—
but mostly buzzing around the house on espresso,
dictionary and atlas open on the rug,
the typewriter waiting for the key of the head,
a cello on the radio,
and, if necessary, the windows—
trees fifty, a hundred years old
heavy clouds on the way
and the lawn steaming like a horse
in the early morning.”
“My very photogenic mother died in a freak accident (picnic, lightning) when I was three, and, save for a pocket of warmth in the darkest past, nothing of her subsists within the hollows and dells of memory […].”
Because of the allusion to Lolita, I know that Billy Collins loves a book that has fascinated me since I was a teenager. Enjoying one novel in common seems like a tenuous connection, but that’s the beauty of reading — sharing literature connects people in spite of material obstacles. Billy Collins is an elderly man and I’m a young woman, but we would have plenty to talk about.
That’s also why the poem “Morning” delights me. As it happens, I am a morning person who prefers to write early, although I’m not an espresso aficionado. Nothing feels better than starting work when the sun does. Waking up early has a significant impact on my mood throughout the rest of the day.
Reading this poem, I feel happy that my own feelings are so well-described by someone else — described in clear, beautiful language. That last image, of dew steaming from the lawn like sweat from a stallion, is so unexpected and enchanting. Yes, “enchanting” is definitely the right word: Billy Collins gave me a moment of magic. It’s trite but it’s true.