Because I’m Not Just an Amanuensis


I feel like the secretary to the morning whose only
responsibility is to take down its bright, airy dictation.
—Billy Collins, “Tuesday, June 4th, 1991”

In the library room, the fan
has not yet received the dictum
that this is a place for silence.

Its unbreathing whirrrr knows
no comma, no em-dash, no period
or question mark—it runs unpunctuated

on and on, an enjambment of hum.
It is Saturday, and despite the bright palace
of sunshine that rules the afternoon—

such warmth that even the breeze
whispers gold—we’re inside. The ripple
of shadow from the white window blinds

makes thin prison bars on the floor,
on my hard yellow chair, on my back.
But I am here by choosing.

In the air above the two gray tables,
a flurry of words shimmer and gutter—
they are bright feathered birds.

They are butterflies with delicate
powdered wings. They are grasshoppers leaping
irreverently and landing on my nose, my neck.

And so why, on this day of golden light
and glittering verb, why wouldn’t I, too,
choose to unceasingly hum?

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