I think back to making the tea,
filling the kettle from the cold water tap
as I looked out the kitchen window
at the stone walls and patches of yesterday’s snow,
then turning a knob on the stove,
putting a flaming wooden match to the gas jet,
and heating the cup with hot water,
as I thought of my mother doing the same.
I pulled a teabag from the little box
and a cloud in the shape of England passed over me.
The boiling water spit from the kettle,
and every season seemed sadder than the last one.
I cut a lemon wedge
and thought about my wife on another continent,
and when I lowered a spoonful
of shining honey into the dark water,
the sick and the poor
crossed my mind as well as soldiers and the police.
A Rhine maiden swam along the bottom of a river
and a man on crutches swung by.
A steaming cup and a room full of sunlight,
a good hand to lift the cup to my lips
and another to wave pen
over a wide open notebook –
for a few minutes, that was enough –
to be alone with tea
on a Sunday morning in February –
then came the poem and not knowing when it was done.
From Magma No. 36, Winter 2006
Billy Collins was Poet Laureate of the United States for 2001–2003. His collection, The Trouble with Poetry and Other Poems, was published by Picador 2006.