Waiting for Billy Collins to Speak at the National Book Festival

My thirteen-year-old son sits next to me,
comic book in hand, imaginary bud of music in his ear,
waiting for mom to finish listening to dry words
on dry pages; the only thing more boring would be
if he were forced read the poems aloud himself.

But Billy Collins is not to be ignored.
“He’s a rock star of poetry,” I whisper reverently,
and my son nods, thinking perhaps that
mom has lost it but in a cute way, the way
I used to laugh at his lame jokes
when he was small; he knows he owes me.

When the words come, we don’t notice as the poems rise
gently with the tide, a wave of literary action
elevating the audience; line by line,
we are transported out of the auditorium,
past the flotsam and jetsam of plastic trees and manicured nails,
out back to where the dirty magazines once were hidden,
into the blood and piss, the egg crates and stray cats.

I look over at my son and realize he is laughing
in all of the right places, and I know that, right here,
in this lecture hall, my son has grown up, enjoying this poetry reading
in spite of himself, his comic book usurped, at least for today,
by a book of poems; I am proud and happy
that he chose to share this experience with me.

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