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(22 March 1941 - / New York City)

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By A Swimming Pool Outside Syracusa

All afternoon I have been struggling to communicate in Italian with Roberto and Giuseppe, who have begun to resemble the two male characters in my Italian for Beginners, the ones who are always shopping or inquiring about the times of trains, and now I can hardly speak or write English.

Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003


Read poems about / on: shopping, swimming

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Comments about this poem (I Go Back To The House For A Book by Billy Collins )

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  • Max Gita (11/24/2011 9:08:00 AM)

    here we are, just imagine the scene with roberto and giuseppe, chissà che si saranno detti, but this poem so humorous is quite serious reflection about language, instead (and great laughing pleasure, also)

    1 person liked.
    3 person did not like.
  • Anna Johnson (8/19/2011 11:58:00 PM)

    And this site has the copyright license to publish Collins' poems, I take it? Saying 'we'll take it down if he asks us to' is to act in bad faith.

  • K. Hall (7/13/2007 10:07:00 PM)

    After struggling to communicate with family members today I turned to poetry and found this. Humorous, calming, clever. Thanks, Billy.

  • James Buja (10/1/2006 10:16:00 AM)

    Well, the problem is easily fixed - by including the whole thing in this comment.

    All afternoon I have been struggling
    to communicate in Italian
    with Roberto and Giuseppe, who have begun
    to resemble the two male characters
    in my Italian for Beginners,
    the ones who are always shopping
    or inquiring about the times of trains,
    and now I can hardly speak or write English.

    I have made important pronouncements
    in this remote limestone valley
    with its trickle of a river,
    stating that it seems hotter
    today even than it was yesterday
    and that swimming is very good for you,
    very beneficial, you might say.
    I also posed burning questions
    about the hours of the archaeological museum
    and the location of the local necropolis.

    But now I am alone in the evening light
    which has softened the white cliffs,
    and I have had a little gin in a glass with ice
    which has softened my mood or—
    how would you say in English—
    has allowed my thoughts to traverse my brain
    with greater gentleness, shall we say,

    or, to put it less literally,
    this drink has extended permission
    to my mind to feel—what's the word? —
    a friendship with the vast sky
    which is very—give me a minute—very blue
    but with much great paleness
    at this special time of day, or as we say in America, now.

  • Edward Redish (12/22/2005 7:56:00 PM)

    According to the version in my copy of 'Nine Horses', this is only the first few lines of a much longer and much more evocative poem.

  • Sallie Howson (12/7/2005 11:32:00 AM)

    goodness i know the feeling well...after teaching english to italians for 20 odd years i now speak english in the same strange way that they do

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