Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Billy Collins - “One Self”

I am trying to imagine that I am someone else,
a grocer, an aerialist,
a young viola player who travels
around the country in a bus full of musicians,

but difficulty lurks at every turn.
I am not really sure what a viola looks like,
plus, I have become so used to being me
that I have become an assistant professor of myself.

By the time I have learned to play
the viola, even badly,
I would be close to death at best.
And I am so happy when I can stay home

and pass the time in a leather armchair,
volumes of Diderot on the shelf above me,
some jazz low on the radio,
slow waves of memory washing over me

and desire passing through me
like the tiny amount of electricity
that flows through the night-light in a bathroom.
So maybe the way to overcome the ego

is to start small, to imagine that I am still me
only I was born in Columbus, Ohio,
and I go to the gym three times a week.
Or, better still, I do not go to the gym at all—

it is up to me after all.
Maybe I stay home and listen to the news
with an uncooperative look on my face,
a smoker who likes to look out the front window

as I do, or to sit in a leather chair
under a long shelf of French literature,
a fellow who gets tearful
whenever the wind stirs up the leaves,

who gets tearful thinking about his parents
buried under tall drifts of snow
in a large municipal cemetery
somewhere on the outskirts of Columbus, Ohio.

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