12. Horoscopes for the Dead: Poems

by Billy Collins

I'll just post one and hope he doesn't mind.  It is not the best one in the book but certainly my favorite:

Grave

What do you think of my new glasses
I asked as I stood under a shade tree
before the joined grave of my parents,

and what followed was a long silence
that descended on the rows of the dead
and on the fields and the woods beyond,

one of the one hundred kinds of silence
according to the Chinese belief,
each one distinct from the others,

and the difference being so faint
that only a few special monks
were able to tell one from the other.

They make you look very scholarly,
I heard my mother say
once I lay down on the ground

and pressed an ear into the soft grass.
Then I rolled over and pressed
my other ear to the ground,

the ear my father likes to speak into,
but he would say nothing,
and I could not find a silence

among the 100 Chinese silences
that would fit the one that he created
even though I was the one

who had just made up the business
of the 100 Chinese silences--
the Silence of the Night Boat

and the silence of the Lotus,
cousin to the silence of the Temple Bell
only deeper and softer, like petals, at its farthest edges.

No comments: