Ledger of the head's transactions,

log of the body's voyage,

it rides all day in a raincoat pocket,

ready to admit any droplet of thought,

nut of a maxim,

narrowest squint of an observation.


It goes with me

to a gallery where I open it to record

a note on red and the birthplace of Corot,

into the tube of an airplane

so I can take down the high dictation of clouds,

or on a hike in the woods where a young hawk

might suddenly fly between its covers.


And when my heart is beating

too rapidly in the dark,

I will go downstairs in a robe,

open it up to a blank page,

and try to settle on the blue lines

whatever it is that seems to be the matter.


Net I tow beneath the waves of the day,

giant ball of string or foil,

it holds whatever I uncap my pen to save:

a snippet of Catullus,

a passage from Camus,

a tiny eulogy for the evening anodyne of gin,

a note on what the kingfisher looks like when he swims.


And there is room in the margins

for the pencil to go lazy and daydream

in circles and figure eights,

or produce some illustrations,

like Leonardo in his famous codex-

room for a flying machine,

the action of a funnel,

a nest of pulleys,

and a device that is pulled by water,


room for me to draw

a few of my own contraptions,

inventions so original and visionary

that not even I----genius of the new age-

have the slightest idea what they are for.

Billy Collins

from Picnic, Lightning

Pittsburg 1998