Thursday, January 24, 2019

Poetry Friday: Tabatha Wrote Me a Poem

Tabatha Yeatts knows how much I love Billy Collins.

Tabatha got my name in the Summer Poem Swap last year and wrote me a poem — a glorious poem — about a discussion with Imaginary Billy Collins.

Imaginary Billy Collins! 

Tabatha gets me.

Thank you, Tabatha, for getting me. Thank you for making me cry a little bit when I read this beautiful piece, when I realized you wrote it for me, that it's mine, and I get to keep this gem and sit down with Imaginary Billy (and you) any time I want to.

Imaginary Billy and Real Tabatha are treasures.

Imaginary Billy and I Discuss the Founding Documents
for Karen

by Tabatha Yeatts 

Did you know that Timothy Matlack
is the clerk who transcribed
the Declaration of Independence?
I ask Imaginary Billy Collins,
who is reading the paper
on the sofa across from me.

Imaginary Billy is polite enough
to put down his newspaper
and he looks at me over his glasses,
He did a lovely job of it,
he says. The title is especially attractive,
with all those flourishes.

I know, I say. People had better
handwriting then. Billy hmms in agreement
and goes back to his paper. I wait
until he finishes his article and say,
Did you know that every year 
more than a million people come to
the National Archives Building to see it?

Billy raises an eyebrow and says,
I didn't know, but I'm not surprised.
I see it every year, in my dreams,
but not everyone has my imagination.

I'm sitting there thinking about
the million and one people who see it every year
as Billy returns to his reading.

I am nervous about interrupting him again
but I do anyway.
Did you know that the Declaration
and the Bill of Rights and the Constitution
are sealed in titanium casement
filled with argon gas?

And they are kept 22 feet underground
when they're not on display?
And the ink is measured every day
to make sure it isn't fading?

Oh, I do that, Billy says,
finally putting his newspaper down. 
With my copy, the one I visit.
Except it's not 22 feet underground
exactly. I keep it in 22 places. 
I keep the Preamble in my mouth,
and I tucked the first amendment
into my fingers so it's there while I'm writing.

I put some of the other amendments
in my shoes so I can figure out
where I'm going. I tend to ramble, 
you know.

I'm not sure whether it is more polite
to agree with him or disagree
so I make a noncommittal head bobble,
which he seems to approve of.

Where do you keep it?
he asks me.

I feel like it's been camping out
in my tear ducts, I say,
wishing I had a better answer.

But he nods, like that's a 
fine answer anyway. 

As long as the ink isn't fading, he says.

It's not, I say. 


We're Going to Walden for the roundup this week. Thanks for hosting, Tara! 


jama said...

Oh my goodness, I love T's poem SO much, and knowing how you love Billy Collins, this is indeed perfect! Oh, the wit, the ironic tone, the sheer Billy-ness. She knows him and you, so well. Brava!

Tara said...

Perfectly done by Tabatha - Billy's voice, but also the underlying politics. Bravo, Tabatha!

Karen Edmisten said...

Jama and Tara -- yes! Perfect and perfectly done indeed!

Carol Varsalona said...

Wow, that is some grand gesture on Tabatha's part. This poem is amazing. I remember when Billy Collins presented at our state conference. It was so wonderful to be in his presence and listen him to read aloud from his poems.

tanita✿davis said...

Well, this has made ME tear up, too. Lovely, lovely, lovely.
"As long as the ink isn't fading."

Jane @ said...


Wow. That's pretty much all I can say.


Linda Mitchell said...

What an amazing way to describe the Declaration, the keeping of it and Billy Collins. Tabatha, you really have the most amazing imagination and talent. Karen, you have a wonderful poem to treasure. I love it.

Jone said...

Wow. Incredible.

Karen Edmisten said...

I'm loving all the Wows and all the love this poem is getting -- so richly deserved! I'm so grateful to Tabatha for the gift of it, and for allowing me to share it here.

elli said...

Oh what a beautiful poem! Wonderful. What a delightful gift to receive!

Kimberly Hutmacher said...

Oh how I love this poem, and it might have brought a tear to my eye. What a special gift this is..

Mary Lee said...

Lucky you! Thanks for sharing your imaginary Billy Collins with all of us!

Ruth said...

Oh. SO good! Real Tabatha has been on a roll lately!

Margaret Simon said...

This is truly a brilliant poem that I think even the real Billy would be proud of.

Kay said...

This is an amazing and brilliant poem. Thank you for sharing it with us!

Karen Edmisten said...

I'm thrilled to see all the beautiful responses to Tabatha's brilliant poem. Brava, Tabatha, Brava!