In my last post I was talking a little about Haggis. So “now for something completely different” as was often the refrain of Monty Python’s Flying Circus! Staying in much lighter mood I have turned to the poems of Billy Collins who so often takes the very ordinary moments and scenes of life and turns them into verse. He has a marvelous way from time to time of giving us a wonderful line or two which will amuse us for the rest of the day. Today, I have chosen a poem in which he recounts his table conversation with a fish while he eats alone in a Pittsburgh restaurant. Many times I have eaten alone in unfamiliar restaurants in unfamiliar cites as I travel with work, and know those silly moments of silent conversation with oneself! Nothing too serious today just a moment to pause and chuckle and enjoy the moment if not just the food!
By Billy Collins
New York Times Magazine Nov 25th.2007
As soon as the elderly waiter
placed before me the fish I had ordered,
it began to stare up at me
with its one flat, iridescent eye.
I feel sorry for you, it seemed to say,
eating alone in this awful restaurant
bathed in such unkindly light
and surrounded by these dreadful murals of Sicily.
And I feel sorry for you, too —
yanked from the sea and now lying dead
next to some boiled potatoes in Pittsburgh —
I said back to the fish as I raised my fork.
And thus my dinner in an unfamiliar city
with its rivers and lighted bridges
was graced not only with chilled wine
and lemon slices but with compassion and sorrow.
Today is Wednesday,
nothing special, nothing different,
just as plain as any middle of week day goes.
So much of our life, O Lord,
has to do with the ordinary,
with the unspectacular,
with the predictable,
nothing to truly mark the day any different from any other.
Yet in these ordinary moments O Lord
remind me that in my breathing, in and out,
I experience the greatest gift of all, the gift of life.
I don’t wish to live every day as if it were my last, because
if this were true I would have too many choices to make,
indecision would paralyze me and the hours would be wasted.
Nor do I wish to live each and every day as the first day
of my remaining life. The memories of yesterday are all too precious
to be left behind in the hurry to get to tomorrow.
So Lord, I offer my prayer,
thank you for this day,
for all that takes place one hour to the next.
Thank you O Lord, for those who share this day
with me, family, friends, neighbors, strangers.
Bless them with joy, bless them with hope,
and for those whose present day is all too full
of challenge, pain, difficulty or sorrow,
might the surprise of your Holy grace cause
a moment of thankfulness and lead them onward. Amen.
One thought on “Something Completely Different”
If I were in Pittsburgh, or any other city, in a restaurant, alone or not, I would look that fish in the eye and say, “Look at us! Here we are in a restaurant enjoying each other’s company, you fresh from the sea, I having survived the long dreary months of a pandemic. And look at that spectacular mural! Cheers, Friend!”
I am immensely grateful for the gift of life, for both its ordinary and extraordinary moments, for the security of the predictable and the excitement of the unpredictable, for the comfort in the unspectacular and the joy of the spectacular.
Thank you for helping to lead us onward.