I owe my disciples a few Billy Collins poems. I will offer no excuses for neglecting the former Poet Laureate of the United States. But, I intend to make up for my negligence today.
Of course, Billy Collins is Irish American, so he has all of the Catholic trappings that I have in my background, as well. The poem I have chosen to share with you is about guilt and redemption (in a way). Totally appropriate for Holy Saturday.
Tonight, I will be playing the pipe organ and singing at the Easter Vigil Mass at my church. Lots of darkness and candles and fire and incense. Two hours of celebration. This may not sound like a fun way to spend a Saturday night, but the Easter Vigil is the most beautiful worship service of the year. It causes me great stress--I have three pages of Gregorian chant to sing. But there is something about seeing the church filled with the night and then slowly filling with flickering candles that moves me deeply.
Saint Marty is ready for the light.
by: Billy Collins
There's a possum who appears here at odd times,
often walking up the path to the house
in the middle of the day like a little ghost
with a long tail and a blank expression on his face.
He likes to slip behind the woodpile,
but sometimes he gets so close to the window
where I am standing with a glass in my hand
that I start to review my sins, systematically
going from one commandment to the next.
What is it about him that causes me
to begin an examination of conscience,
calling to mind my failings in this time of reflection?
It could just be the twitching of the tail
and that white face, but his slow priestly pace
also makes a contribution, as do the tiny paws,
more like hands, really, with opposable thumbs
able to carry a nut or dig a hole in the earth
of lift a chalice above his head
or even deliver a document,
I am thinking as he nears the back door,
not merely a subpoena but an order
of excommunication with my name and a date
written in fine Italian ink
and signed with a flourish of the papal sash.