Tonight I carried into bed
a big biography of Rembrandt
full of color plates, drawings in black and white,
and many self portraits-
him in a plumed hat, him in a gold chain,
the dark corners and the flashes of red.
I wanted only a serious
but silent voice to carry me off to sleep.
Maybe I would dream of the elevation of the cross.
I didn’t expect to find on one page
a corner turned down,
you marking your place on another night
after you had undressed in this house,
bracelets coming to rest on a bureau,
maybe slipped into a thin blue nightgown.
I don’t mean to make it sound as if you are dead.
I’m going to stop now.
And I promise I will never do that again.
This poem first appeared in the impeccably mannered and always monocled Volume 3 of The Ampersand Review.
Billy Collins is the award-winning author of The Trouble with Poetry, Nine Horses, Sailing Alone Around the Room, and Picnic, Lightning, among other poetry collections. He has edited the anthologies Poetry 180 and 180 More. He is a distinguished professor of English at Lehman College, City University of New York, where he has taught for the past thirty years. From 2001 to 2003 he served as the Poet Laureate of the United States.