Gwnewch y pethau bychain

A poem for Mother’s Day

In honour of Mother’s Day…

The Lanyard
by Billy Collins

The other day I was ricocheting slowly
off the blue walls of this room,
moving as if underwater from typewriter to piano,
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
when I found myself in the L section of the dictionary
where my eyes fell upon the word lanyard.

No cookie nibbled by a French novelist
could send one into the past more suddenly—
a past where I sat at a workbench at a camp
by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid long thin plastic strips
into a lanyard, a gift for my mother.

I had never seen anyone use a lanyard
or wear one, if that’s what you did with them,
but that did not keep me from crossing
strand over strand again and again
until I had made a boxy
red and white lanyard for my mother.

She gave me life and milk from her breasts,
and I gave her a lanyard.
She nursed me in many a sick room,
lifted spoons of medicine to my lips,
laid cold face-cloths on my forehead,
and then led me out into the airy light

and taught me to walk and swim,
and I, in turn, presented her with a lanyard.
Here are thousands of meals, she said,
and here is clothing and a good education.
And here is your lanyard, I replied,
which I made with a little help from a counselor.

Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,
strong legs, bones and teeth,
and two clear eyes to read the world, she whispered,
and here, I said, is the lanyard I made at camp.
And here, I wish to say to her now,
is a smaller gift—not the worn truth

that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took
the two-tone lanyard from my hand,
I was as sure as a boy could be
that this useless, worthless thing I wove
out of boredom would be enough to make us even.


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  1. Ok that’s great. “And here is your lanyard!”

    I must send that to my mom!!

    So true.

    I didn’t get a lanyard but I did get a rather nice card with googly eyes on it from C. It’s hard to upstage googly eyes ya know? 😉

  2. Simon’s teacher had them all tape themselves reading Love You Forever! They would ding one of those little bell hop bells every time you were supposed to turn the page.

    Yes. I cried.

  3. I’ve been on a Billy Collins kick lately, and I adore this poem.


  4. Wow…
    Now I want a lanyard…
    Not really. I got cards from the boys saying reasons why I was a great mom:
    Casey: “I love my mom because she lets me play games.”
    Riley: My mom is great because she tells me about Buffalo and she’s going to take me to Golden Gate Park to see the buffaloes there.”

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