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Published in Print: November 1, 2001, as The Flight of the Reader

The Flight of the Reader

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You'd think we would have had enough
of one another
after all the rain streaming down these windows,
the walks out to the garden when it clears,
the same yellow and white flowers,
all the sleepless nights—
the toy car going in circles on the bed table.

But still, you stay perched on my shoulder,
cricket or bluebird,
wild parrot digging your claws into my loud shirt.

Is it because I do not pester you
with the invisible gnats of meaning,
never release the whippets of anxiety from their crates,
or hold up my monstrous mirror,
a thing the size of a playing field?

Whatever makes you stay,
I hate to think of that morning
when I will wake up to find you gone,
heading toward the open sea,
dragging the cables that bound us together,
leaving me with nothing more to say.

But don't get me wrong.
It's not that I cannot live without you,
cannot sit under an ordinary green tree
with no desire to reach for the pen in my pocket,
or lie contented on a couch all day,
one hand over my mouth.

It's not like I have a crush on you
and instead of writing my five-paragraph essay
I am sailing paper airplanes across the room at you—
it's not that I can't wait for the lunch bell
to see your face again.

It's not like that. Not exactly.

Excerpted from Sailing Alone Around the Room: New and Selected Poems by Billy Collins. Copyright (c) 2001 Billy Collins. Reprinted by permission of Random House.

Vol. 13, Issue 3, Page 10

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