Listening to Billy Collins at a Bramantino Exhibition (Milano 2012)
It is in the sense of pace, the low tone
and subtle, comforting pauses,
which brings to mind the word “slowdom”
and then finds it eradicated
for its nearness to the word boredom
which does not apply.
But it is a turtle’s pace of voice,
seeming to suck air out of the room
so there are only words
left for us to breathe upon.
But I feel he would forgive the imaginary word,
if only because we forgave him
for his use of Saxo Grammaticus
for the mere sake of a pun.
Again, the humour in sly proportions
creeping in, magnified in the voice
of a man we might suspect was once called Billy
and never quite grew into William.
A suspicion so pervasive that
one begins to wonder whether
the renaissance painters
whistled while they worked,
or whether Lamentations of Christ’s crucifixion
were ever accompanied by
some form of sweet bread.
And now, as I write this,
stopped in a hall too dimly lit to laugh in,
I feel him find his way into my voice.
I am using more words than I would,
and my verse is becoming troubled
by pauses which
I need not take.
A quick webcam reading of one of my favourite poems by Billy Collins, The Invention of the Saxophone: