Girlhood ( after Billy Collins)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA                   claras_dollhouse10

I’ve  always loved Billy Collin’s poetry. One of his poems, Boyhood, haunted me for a long time after I read it. It dawned on me that it brought back emotions related to my own childhood. I wrote the following poem for one of my MFA classes. I used a lot of Collin’s form and style. My critique group enjoyed it and gave me good feedback, but I never sent it off for publishing. Writing a poem after another poet is done in the poetry world as long as the poet gives note that it is “after” and then the poet’s name. I felt my poem was too similar to his, so I didn’t want to send it. However, I was looking through some of my old papers and there it was hidden beneath sheathes of free writes!  Again, it brought back feelings I’d left behind. It was as if I’d found an old friend.

I’ve decided to share it on my blog as a tribute to Billy Collins and as a tip for writers. It worked for me. and I hope others will find it a helpful tool in their writing toolbox. I was taught that it is a good thing for poets or writers in general to find a poet one likes and actually copy their style and form and even voice for while. I’ve done that with many poets I love. What I’ve found is that after awhile, I began to develop my own voice, my own style, and my own form of writing. Like I was taught…It’s Good Thing. So here’s my poem written after Billy Collins.

( After Billy Collins)
Leigh Mackelvey

I would lie beside my dollhouse in the attic
and level one eye against the largest window
to watch the plastic suited father sit downstairs

on the tiny sofa while the mother rocked
the pink-gowned girl in the  nursery upstairs,
an imaginary lullaby
filling and soothing the house
and me.

There was something about that time
before I reached my hand into the house
and moved the family
into other rooms.

It wasn’t the dishes the size of  my thumb,
unwashed in the pretend sink,
the miniscule posies on the nursery walls,

nor was it the sparkle of the silver-balled
evergreen on it’s round stand.
Not the orange glow of the battery-

lit logs in the wee fireplace.
What I wanted
was to be
calmed over and over

by that lullaby as I let it
drift slowly downstairs to the
father, then let it

melt  into
until there was
nothing left

but a softly sung song.


Now this is Billy Collin’s Poem! Much more gorgeous than mine.


Alone in the basement,
I would sometimes lower one eye
to the level of the narrow train track

to watch the puffing locomotive
pull the cars around a curve
then bear down on me with its dazzling eye.

What was in those moments
before I lifted my head and let the train
go rocking by under my nose?

I remember not caring much
about the fake grass or the buildings
that made up the miniature town.

The same went for the station and its master,
the crossing gates and flashing lights,
the milk car, the pencil-size logs,

the metallic men and women,
the dangling water tower,
and the round mirror for a pond.

All I wanted was to be blinded
over and over by this shaking light
as the train stuck fast to its oval course.

Or better still, to close my eyes,
to stay there on the cold narrow rails
and let the train tunnel through me

the way it tunneled through the mountain
painted the color of rock,
and then there would be nothing

but the long whistling through the dark –
no basement, no boy,
no everlasting summer afternoon.

— Billy Collins, past poet laureate USA




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