These are not the lines.

This poem just now became an instant favorite. Oh, if we all could write half so well about the things we’ve forgotten!


These are not the lines that came to me
while walking in the woods
with no pen
and nothing to write on anyway.

They are gone forever,
a handful of coins
dropped through the grate of memory,
along with the ingenious mnemonic

I devised to hold them in place —
all gone and forgotten
before I had returned to the clearing of lawn
in back of our quiet house

with its jars jammed with pens,
its notebooks and reams of blank paper,
its desk and soft lamp,
its table and the light from its windows.

So this is my elegy for them,
those six or eight exhalations,
the braided rope of syntax,
the jazz of the timing,

and the little insight at the end
wagging like the short tail
of a perfectly obedient spaniel
sitting by the door.

This is my envoy to nothing
where I say Go, little poem —
not out into the world of strangers’ eyes,
but off to some airy limbo,

home to lost epics,
unremembered names,
and fugitive dreams
such as the one I had last night,

which, like a fantastic city in pencil,
erased itself
in the bright morning air
just as I was waking up.

~ Billy Collins, poet laureate 2001-2003

5 thoughts on “These are not the lines.

  1. Very poignant…..And we just have to let it all go…….words, songs, thoughts, visions………It may never return in the same guise. Almost absolutely will not. We just have to smile as it departs, smile that it was and not mourn the untimely departure……

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Love this! I can so relate! So often I think of something insightful to write in my journal, but forget it before I get home. Nice to know I’m not alone! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Such a familiar feeling — it’s happened to me many times. I would try to memorize and recite back to myself what I’d written in my head. I’ve scribbled lines on so many unusual things, just to keep them. Poof!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I am laughing… this is a poet’s poem for sure, but Mr. Collins gathered up so many wonderful new images to comfort himself over the swift flight of the fleeting glory by which he was touched. Ah, but I saw and I felt and I dreamed..yes …

    Liked by 1 person

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