In the club car that morning I had my notebook

open on my lap and my pen uncapped,

looking every inch the writer

right down to the little writer’s frown on my face,


but there was nothing to write about

except life and death

and the low warning wound of the train whistle.


I did not want to write about the scenery

that was flashing past, cows spread over a pasture,

hay rolled up meticulously –

things you see once and will never see again.


But I kept my pen moving by drawing

over and over again

the face of a motorcyclist in profile-


for no reason I can think of –

a biker with sunglasses and a weak chin,

leaning forward, helmetless,

his long thin hair trailing behind him in the wind.


I also drew many lines to indicate speed,

to show the air becoming visible

as it broke over the biker’s face


the way it was breaking over the face

of the locomotive that was pulling me

toward Omaha and whatever lay beyond Omaha

for me, all the other stops to make


before the time would arrive to stop for good.

We must always look at things

from the point of view of eternity,


the college theologians used to insist,

from which, I imagine, as we would all

appear to have speed lines trailing behind us

as we rush along the road of the world,


as we rush down the long tunnel of time –

the biker, of course, drunk on the wind,

but also the man reading by a fire,


speed lines coming off his shoulders and his book,

and the woman standing on a beach

studying the curve of the horizon,

even the child asleep on a summer night,


speed lines flying from the posters of her bed,

from the white tips of the pillow cases,

and from the edges of her perfectly motionless body.

Billy Collins


penny hardy
penny hardy