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Reading in a hammock.

I am lying here in one of the standard positions of summer, one arm raised, holding up the Penguin Book of French Verse against the sun like a small sky of words whose dark uneven lines I am studying.

Around the border of the book is the larger sky, dotted with clouds, and some overhanging trees that appear to be swaying recklessly back and forth, as if I were the perfectly motionless one,

calmly thumbing through Verlaine and Baudelaire while the world around me slid from side to side like a gigantic, unstoppable hammock. Whichever is doing the actual swinging would matter

little to Apollinaire who thought religion looked like a hangar on an airfield and whose angels wore chef's hats and plucked geese. And the drowsier I become the less it matters to me.

When I am rocked beyond words, I close the book on all the drolleries and the anguishing, all the poems that have moved in my hands like butterflies moving among the flowers of evil.

Above, a soft light shines through an opening in the dark maples that form the poles of my dangling. A light so pale and violet that it is impossible to tell whether I am experiencing pleasure or pain,

impossible to say if I am simply a man of leisure or if I am tied to these trees like a martyr to idleness, condemned to swing gently in the cool shade until dead.
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Author:Collins, Billy
Publication:Chicago Review
Date:Jan 1, 1992
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