Friday, January 6, 2017

Early Morning - Billy Collins

I don't know which cat is responsible
for destroying my Voter Registration Card
so I decide to lecture the two of them
on the sanctity of private property,
the rules of nighttime comportment in general,
and while I'm at it, the importance
of voting to an enlightened citizenship.

This is the way it was in school.
No one would admit to winging a piece of chalk
past the ear of Sister Mary Alice,
so the whole class would have to stay after.
And likewise in the army, or at least
in movies involving the army.  All weekend
privileges were revoked until the man
who snuck the women and the keg of beer
into the barracks last night stepped forward.

Of course, it's hard to get them to stay
in one place let alone hold their attention
for more than two seconds.  The black one
turns tail and pads into the other room,
and the kitten is kneading a soft throw
like crazy, pathetically searching for a nipple.

Meanwhile, it's overcast, not pewter
or anything like that, just overcast period,
and I haven't had a sip of coffee yet.
You know, when I told that interviewer
early morning was my favorite time to write,
I was not thinking of this particular morning.

I must have had another kind of morning in mind,
one featuring a peignoir, some oranges, and sunlight.
But now there's nothing else to do
but open the back door a crack for the black one,
who enjoys hunting and killing lizards,
while blocking the kitten with one foot,
the little cottontail fucker who's still too young to go out.

Happy New Year, friends!  It isn't every day that a poem makes me laugh out loud, but not every poet can be Billy Collins, who as I've stated on multiple occasions, is my favorite living author.  I felt it fitting to start a new year of poetry blogging with some levity, especially seeing as I received Collins' most recent collection of poems for Christmas (thanks mom!). 

Collins has a unique talent for capturing in words the exact tone of a moment.  Anyone who has ever cohabitated with a cat knows exactly the absurdity of trying to lecture a cat for their wrongdoings.  I would say cat owners, but let's be honest, as Collins is, we really only share our space with them.  What this poem, and really all of Collins' poetry does so well, is capture in clear, relatable terms the wonderful absurdities of the mundane.

Our everyday lives are fundamentally mundane.  We rise, eat, clean ourselves, dress, and engage in some sort of occupation.  We repeat this nearly daily.  We are creatures of habit, and but for small variations, there is little true difference day to day.  I do not mean to depress, but rather to zoom out the viewpoint on a typical day.  What Collins does so well here is capture the humor that permeates the human experience.  His cats messed up his things, he's mad at them, he lets one out because what else can you do?  Laugh at yourself and move on.

When I got to the final line, "the little cottontail fucker who's still too young to go out" I burst out laughing.  Partly, it was the unexpectedness of the cursing.  Collins typically doesn't employ much foul language in his writing, so it came as a bit of a shock.  More than that was how relatable it is.  My parents' cat, Yoda (who I still think of as mine, despite not living there) is commonly referred to as "asshole cat" by my father and me.  Any cat person knows what it's like to lovingly curse out a pet. 

Collins expertly captures those moments of everyday life that make life worthwhile.  He sees and communicates the poetry present in every day life.  It's a simple poem, but it's guaranteed to bring a smile to your face.  Right now, I think that's what we all need.  I will do my best to bring you more poetry this year.  I made a paltry eight posts in 2016, and I have resolved to do better this year.  I hope to laugh, smile, cry, ponder, and read much more poetry with you all in 2017.  Thank you all for your continued support, and please continue to seek out the poetry and beauty in your everyday life.


  1. Yes, please, more poetry in 2017. My parents (British) took a coast to coast train journey in the US this year and brought me back a book of Billy Collins' poetry as a gift. I had only dipped into it so far but you've inspired me to dig it out and read him more seriously.

    1. I'm so glad to see you commenting again, Tig!

      I hope your parents had a lovely trip! I think you'll enjoy Collins. He has a marvelous talent for catching you off guard with sudden shifts from comic to serious.

  2. I've just discovered your blog and am enjoying skimming around it, so thankyou. This has been my introduction to Billy Collins too - what a find! This reminded me a little of Wendy Cope. I look forward to beaming in regularly.

  3. Thank you for this wonderful Billy Collins poem! I burst out laughing in a couple spots. I appreciated the humorous awareness of the idealized morning and the reality of this morning. Relatable!

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