JEFFREY BAHR

 

Billy Collins Comes to Visit

"Do you believe in angels?," he asks
between mouthfuls of risotto, wiping his chin slowly,
his scalp a moon ringed by tonsure
as I rise to clear the plates.

When the taxi arrived with the vague man
in pale chinos and a pocket full of fountain pens,
a Nike bag, my letter in one hand

the other stuffed with crumpled bills,
I paused to reconsider just
how long it had been since I had made
a really magnificent osso bucco.

"Because, I think they may take the form
of crossing guards. Or, perhaps
the homeless with their strange tongues,
the way they're always looking for something."

Now, he's eating a composed salad
with the wrong fork. I stand stirring
the custard, wondering how long
before he knocks over the wine glass.

"Or the Ice Cream Man," he murmurs
as he pushes from the table, revealing
my cat on his lap.

On the way to the bookshelf, he asks me
for a cigarette, and I remind him
that he's quit. His basset eyes flare
as I show him to his chair upon the cedar deck
and cover him with quilt.

"Or, perhaps forest rangers."

We watch the lights along the fire road,
the last of the sun, the snow on Long's Peak,
wheeling stars.

"Billy, can I ask you something?"

But he's already asleep,
his face a child's moon.


previously published in Samsara Quarterly