On Not Finding You At Home

Usually you appear at the front door

when you hear my steps on the gravel,

but today the door was closed,

not a wisp of pale smoke from the chimney.

I peered into a window

but there was nothing but a table and a comb,

some yellow flowers in a glass of water

and dark shadows in the corner of the room.

I stood for a while under the big tree

and listened to the wind and the birds,

your wind and your birds,

your dark green woods beyond the clearing.

This is not what it’s like to be you,

I realized as a few of your magnificent clouds

flew over the rooftop.

It is just me thinking about being you.

And before I headed back down the hill,

I walked in a circle around your house,

making an invisible line

which you would have to cross before dark.

[Billy Collins, The Trouble With Poetry (and other poems); New York: Random House, 2005, p. 58]

I’ll never know what it’s like to be you, only what it’s like to pretend to be you. I’d be wise to remember that. The best I can do: join hands with you and share the secrets of our holy and wholly different lives.

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