Home > Imitation > Reading Billy Collins in the Bath

Reading Billy Collins in the Bath

April 26, 2012

by Hugh McMillan

I am reading you in the bath
and you are doing that thing again,
making me want to laugh then strangle you,
not just because the little factual paragraph
on the typeface used in your perfect book
is better than most poems I write,
nor because, thanks to a CD I bought,
I hear your lugubrious voice sounding
every syllable like a soft and distant bell,
but mostly because after a few pages,
the mundane in the bathroom, and in all
the rooms in this old house, begins to resonate
like some small but perfect oriental poem.
For instance, my wife just came in
and as she spoke about lunch
a sudden lick of sunshine fell across
her face like a dazzling Arab veil.
I am wishing for a squadron of tanks
to knock the village down, or an aircraft
to fall from the sky like a bird arrowed
at the breast, so I can say
‘Stick that in your pipe Billy Collins’,
but I suppose even from such an event,
tender gold would be spun like thread
at the end of day: birds would sing a tattoo,
and the voices of all those still alive beyond
the immediate wreckage area of these
imaginary catastrophes would look up
at their stars, and quietly go to sleep.


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Hugh McMillan is a poet from South West Scotland, widely published and anthologised. He blogs at Dark Mutterings from Drumsleet.

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  1. April 26, 2012 at 9:59 pm

    I like…. :)

    (So I am not the only person who reads poetry in the bath?)

  2. April 27, 2012 at 1:33 am

    It’s very tongue-in-cheek with a brilliance that builds into more than the sum of its parts and exposes the chops if not the flesh of its author. Terrific.

  3. Irene Brown
    April 27, 2012 at 5:23 am

    Enjoyed listening to this immensely. Scottish and universal aa in the wan gless!

  4. stuart barnes
    April 28, 2012 at 8:33 pm

    Hugh, I love this poem
    Read it several days ago in Bliss
    Hearing it’s made it SO alive

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