Thursday, January 08, 2009

To the Women in our Lives

My wife wasn’t feeling well last night, and I’m afraid that the kids weren’t being much help to her. But it got me thinking about how much our moms and wives do for us. Years ago, I heard a poem about a lanyard that was funny, but also quite poignant, and it really said a lot about the “thanks” we give the women in our lives.
It took some looking, but here it is.

The Lanyard

By Billy Collins

The other day I was ricocheting slowly
off the blue walls of this room,
moving as if underwater from typewriter to piano,
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
when 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 into the past more suddenly—
a past where I sat at a workbench at a camp
by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid long 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 sick room,
lifted spoons of medicine to my lips,
laid 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 worn truth

that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took
the two-tone lanyard from my hand,
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.

And so, to my Mom and especially to my wife… nothing I could ever give you will ever make us even.


Melissa said...

Very sweet and a well-written, thought-provoking poem. Thanks for sharing it. I hope your wife feels better.

Your Wife said...

Thanks Honey! You do realize I'm only that great because of you! Ij yokwe yuk!

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