THE LANYARD

The other day as I was ricocheting slowly
off the blue walls of this room
bouncing from typewriter to piano
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
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 more suddenly into the past.
A past where I sat at a workbench
at a camp by a deep Adirondack lake 
learning how to braid 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 teaspoons of medicine to my lips, 
set cold facecloths on my forehead
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 archaic truth, 
that you can never repay your mother, 
but the rueful admission that when she took the two-toned lanyard from my hands,
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."

-- Billy Collins

TWO SEASONS


The stars were wild that summer evening 
As on the low lake shore stood you and I 
And every time I caught your flashing eye 
Or heard your voice discourse on anything 
It seemed a star went burning down the sky. 

I looked into your heart that dying summer 
And found your silent woman's heart grown wild 
Whereupon you turned to me and smiled 
Saying you felt afraid but that you were 
Weary of being mute and undefiled 

II 
I spoke to you that last winter morning 
Watching the wind smoke snow across the ice 
Told of how the beauty of your spirit, flesh, 
And smile had made day break at night and spring 
Burst beauty in the wasting winter's place. 

You did not answer when I spoke, but stood 
As if that wistful part of you, your sorrow, 
Were blown about in fitful winds below; 
Your eyes replied your worn heart wished it could 
Again be white and silent as the snow.

--Galway Kinnell