Friday poem: 'Reader' by Billy Collins

27 February 2015

Looker, gazer, skimmer, skipper,
thumb-licking page turner, peruser,
you getting your print-fix for the day,
pencil-chewer, note taker, marginalianist
with your checks and X's
first-timer or revisiter,
browser, speedster, English major,
flight-ready girl, melancholy boy,
invisible companion, thief, blind date, perfect stranger—

that is me rushing to the window
to see if it's you passing under the shade trees
with a baby carriage or a dog on a leash,
me picking up the phone
to imagine your unimaginable number, 
me standing by a map of the world
wondering where you are—
alone on a bench in a train station
or falling asleep, the book sliding to the floor.

Aimless Love

'Reader' sits at the beginning of Billy Collins's Aimless Love: New and Selected Poems.

Often, after reading a poem, you feel you know the poet that little bit better. You become attuned to their voice, to the rise and fall of their lines, to their particular wit. But what about the poets? They can never know you, their reader; you will always be an 'invisible companion', a 'perfect stranger'. This poem welcomes you in, whoever you are.

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