VELOCITY

In the club car that morning I had my notebook
open on my lap and my pen uncapped,
looking every inch the writer
right down to the little writer’s frown on my face,

but there was nothing to write
about except life and death
and the low warning sound of the train whistle.

I did not want to write about the scenery
that was flashing past, cows spread over a pasture,
hay rolled up meticulously—
things you see once and will never see again.

But I kept my pen moving by drawing
over and over again
the face of a motorcyclist in profile—

for no reason I can think of—
a biker with sunglasses and a weak chin,
leaning forward, helmetless,
his long thin hair trailing behind him in the wind.

I also drew many lines to indicate speed,
to show the air becoming visible
as it broke over the biker’s face

the way it was breaking over the face
of the locomotive that was pulling me
toward Omaha and whatever lay beyond Omaha
for me and all the other stops to make

before the time would arrive to stop for good.
We must always look at things
from the point of view of eternity,

the college theologians used to insist,
from which, I imagine, we would all
appear to have speed lines trailing behind us
as we rush along the road of the world,

as we rush down the long tunnel of time—
the biker, of course, drunk on the wind,
but also the man reading by a fire,

speed lines coming off his shoulders and his book,
and the woman standing on a beach
studying the curve of horizon,
even the child asleep on a summer night,

speed lines flying from the posters of her bed,
from the white tips of the pillowcases,
and from the edges of her perfectly motionless body.

-Billy Collins

Billy Collins is, without a doubt, my favorite living poet. His poems are simple and imaginative. VELOCITY, reminds us that life is short and fleeting, that from the perspective of eternity we are all moving quickly towards our inevitable destination. Even in the stillest moments, time passes too quickly. As a father of three, I can attest to this. My oldest daughter has gone from being a baby to a teenager in a matter of weeks it seems. Some times I look at her and I swear I can see the speed lines coming off of her. If it is true that a thousand years is like a day from the point of view of God and that we are like grass that grows today and withers tomorrow, then we must make the most of the time we have on this earth. When I read the Gospel of Mark, I can’t help but see the speed lines flying off of Jesus as he packs more life into a year than most of us pack into our lifetime. Jesus gets such a head of steam that the grave doesn’t even stop him. We too, according to the Apostle Paul, are called to run the race. So as a disciple running in the way of Jesus, may you have speed lines coming off of you in every direction and in the words of the old Irish blessing: “may you get to Heaven half an hour before the Devil knows you’re dead.”

Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear…

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