February 16, 2011
While purchasing signed copies of Billy Collins’s poetry,
Picnic, Lightning, The Trouble With Poetry (and other poems),
I notice a photograph on the counter of the poet laureate, the young woman ringing me up
and the bookshop owner.
The photograph shows the woman and the owner attempting to hold ecstasy at arm’s length,
alongside the poet’s bemused grin.
Upon further inquiry, it’s discovered that Billy Collins is a friend of actor,
A fact that occupies my mind for the better part of this sun-soaked afternoon.
I wonder how one came upon the other
An actor at a poetry reading?
A poet at a movie premiere?
Although it’s lovely to believe that Poet Laureate and Academy Award winner
carry equal amounts of star-quality, respect.
Although perhaps it’s more plausible they met at a jazz club
Or even a dinner party, on the occasion when someone somewhat famous
invites their cadre of artsy friends
Because poets, painters, actors and artists make savory social soup.
Secretly, I hope they met over booze.
Swiftly sizing up the humor and humanity of the other
Silently solidifying an unspoken bond over lowball glasses of 12-year-old scotch.
I imagine Billy as instrumental in Bill’s decision to accept the Lost In Translation role.
And I picture the Upstate New York diner where Bill suggests that
The Victoria’s Secret catalog might make for an especially vibrant poem,
as Billy’s eyes widen, glisten, his over buttered wheat toast momentarily motionless in midair
his mind whirring, words falling into seasonal lines of luxurious lingerie.
I wonder if the friendship dates back to the summer I watched Stripes once a day.
It’s conceivable that Billy Collins actually penned the “chicks dig me” scene.
Though I’m aware my perception of Bill’s personality is an amalgam of his on-screen performances and several casual sightings around town.
Once at a liquor store.
While I’m thinking of it, was the use of Roxy Music’s “More Than This” in the karaoke scene from Lost in Translation Billy’s suggestion?
Or was that all Sofia Coppola?
Which brings me back to the bookshop and the young woman and me, asking if she’d seen
the precocious three-year-old lad
who recited “Litany” from memory on YouTube.
As it happens, Billy didn’t just meet the boy,
he spent an afternoon reading him his favorite books,
Neither Picnic, Lightning nor The Trouble With Poetry (and other poems),
but mostly well-illustrated animal stories
rife with warmth and words that lull a boy toward slumber.