How agreeable it is not to be touring Italy this summer,
wandering her cities and ascending her torrid hill towns.
How much better to cruise these local, familiar streets,
fully grasping the meaning of every road sign and billboard
and all the sudden hand gestures of my compatriots.
There are no abbeys here, no crumbling frescoes or famous
domes and there is no need to memorize a succession
of kings or tour the dripping corners of a dungeon.
No need to stand around a sarcophagus, see Napoleon’s
little bed on Elba, or view the bones of a saint under glass.
How much better to command the simple precinct of home
Than be dwarfed by pillar, arch, and basilica.
Why hide my head in phrase books and wrinkled maps?
Why feed scenery into a hungry, one-eyed camera
eager to eat the world one monument at a time?
Instead of slouching in a cafe ignorant of the word for ice,
I will head down to the coffee shop and the waitress
known as Dot. I will slide in the flow of the morning
paper, all language barriers down,
rivers of idiom running freely, eggs over easy on the way.
– Billy Collins, poet, from ‘Sailing Alone Around the Room’.
(Quotation of the Day for August 29, 2008)
I may not leave the house tomorrow either. Rain, cold, rain, cold… weather for hibernating, baking, and (of an evening) taking occasional sips of liqueur.