Treasure Island

Billy Collins

(22 March 1941 - / New York City)

Consolation


How agreeable it is not to be touring Italy this summer,
wandering her cities and ascending her torrid hilltowns.
How much better to cruise these local, familiar streets,
fully grasping the meaning of every roadsign and billboard
and all the sudden hand gestures of my compatriots.

There are no abbeys here, no crumbling frescoes or famous
domes and there is no need to memorize a succession
of kings or tour the dripping corners of a dungeon.
No need to stand around a sarcophagus, see Napoleon's
little bed on Elba, or view the bones of a saint under glass.

How much better to command the simple precinct of home
than be dwarfed by pillar, arch, and basilica.
Why hide my head in phrase books and wrinkled maps?
Why feed scenery into a hungry, one-eyes camera
eager to eat the world one monument at a time?

Instead of slouching in a café ignorant of the word for ice,
I will head down to the coffee shop and the waitress
known as Dot. I will slide into the flow of the morning
paper, all language barriers down,
rivers of idiom running freely, eggs over easy on the way.

And after breakfast, I will not have to find someone
willing to photograph me with my arm around the owner.
I will not puzzle over the bill or record in a journal
what I had to eat and how the sun came in the window.
It is enough to climb back into the car

as if it were the great car of English itself
and sounding my loud vernacular horn, speed off
down a road that will never lead to Rome, not even Bologna.

Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003

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  • Mara Seer (8/31/2006 12:26:00 PM)

    Writing this from a hotspot in Assisi, Italia, where I have been wanting to find and share this poem with other wannabe ex-pats for six months now. Just discovered this website this morning, thank you, thank you! My books of Billy Collins' poems are almost the only things I miss from home. And Collins' love and understanding of Italy - its people, its food, its wine, its gioia di vivere - shine through in several other poems as well. (Report) Reply

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