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MEDIUM

by Billy Collins

The way I like to lay it down sometimes
there is too much traction on paper.
The ink soaks into the cloth of the page.
The words adhere like burrs to a woolen cuff.

I would rather behave on a surface of oil,

a young Renaissance painter in a frock
and a crushed, deep blue velvet hat,
moving the oleaginous colors into the face
of the Virgin or lightening the gray
of the sky behind the oval of her head.

I want to write with the least control,
one finger on the steering wheel,
to write like a watercolorist
whose brush persuades the liquids
to stay above the pull and run of gravity.

I want to hold the pen lightly
as you would touch the stilted, wooden
pointer on a ouija board,
letting it glide over the letters
until it comes to rest as a stone
thrown across a frozen mountain lake
will stop somewhere in the darkness
when the long insistance of friction
has its way and will no longer be overcome.

I would love to write on water
like the final words of Keats
so a current would carry the sentences away
and the slightest breeze would ruffle
the glassy curves of their meaning.

I want to write on air
as in the rapid language of signs
or in the lighting of a cigarette,
both hands cupped near the mouth,
then one waving out the flame
and the long, silent exhalation of smoke,
the gate of the body swinging open.

Most of all,
I want to write on your skin
with the tip of my finger,
printing one capital letter at a time
on the sloping vellum of your back.
I want you to guess the message
being written on your flesh
as children do in summer at the beach,
to feel the shape of every letter
being traced upon your body–oh, ideal reader–
to read with your eyes shut tight,
kneeling in the sand, facing the open sea.

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