Eating Billy Collins

Eating Billy Collins
by jim benz
As I rode my bike down Lake Street
on a warm summer day
I caught the gaze of a panhandler
holding a neatly printed sign in his hand
He was not unshaven or scowling,
there was no surrender in his posture –
in fact, he was wearing a clean shirt
and pleated trousers
Uncharacteristically, as I rode past him
he gave me a wink and a grin
as if we were drinking together, at Martini Blu,
ogling the same woman
But there was nothing I wanted
to relinquish – no quarters for the bus
or a stiff drink, no smiles of recognition
that would make this poem
(which has become increasingly oblique)
resound with humanity – just a squint
then a meandering shift of my pupils
to the asphalt, as if he weren’t there
Like, who is he trying to fool
standing on a corner with his manicured sign
and white teeth? I want him to be a drunkard, someone
whose face makes me ponder
Editors Note: Read an interview w/ Jim Benz

0 thoughts on “Eating Billy Collins

  1. this is a great poem. reading billy collins didn’t change my writing much. watching / hearing billy collins read his own work a couple years ago changed how i see things entirely.

  2. I’ve got a real love/hate affair with Billy Collins. Or more like a like/hate affair. I like his poetry quite a bit, but he makes pronouncements about what POETRY SHOULD (or should not) BE that drive me mad. So, any ambiguities in this one are entirely on purpose. Still, I think I’d enjoy going to a reading – he seems like a pretty good guy. But anyways, thanks for the nice words.

  3. Yeah, that is uncool to do ‘is’ and ‘isn’t’ pronouncements for poetry…inconsequential like W.C. Williams on E.E. Cummings. I tend to be more enthralled/interested with Nuyorican/Slam scene than the Academics in their Universities but still they come up with some good stuff {let’s make Beau Sia or Saul Williams the next laureate and move it off campus to the streets}. Here’s one i like:
    Introduction to Poetry
    Billy Collins
    I ask them to take a poem
    and hold it up to the light
    like a color slide
    or press an ear against its hive.
    I say drop a mouse into a poem
    and watch him probe his way out,
    or walk inside the poem’s room
    and feel the walls for a light switch.
    I want them to waterski
    across the surface of a poem
    waving at the author’s name on the shore.
    But all they want to do
    is tie the poem to a chair with rope
    and torture a confession out of it.
    They begin beating it with a hose
    to find out what it really means.

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