Billy Collins





Royal Aristocrat

My old typewriter used to make so much noise
I had to put a cushion of newspaper
beneath it late at night
so as not to wake the whole house.

Even if I closed the study door
and typed a few words at a time —
the best way to work anyway —
the clatter of keys was still so loud

that the gray and yellow bird
would wince in its cage.
Some nights I could even see the moon
frowning down at me through the winter trees.

That was twenty years ago,
yet as I write this with my soft lead pencil
I can still hear that distinctive sound,
like small arms fire across a border,

one burst after another
as my wife turned in her sleep.
I was a single monkey
trying to type the opening lines of my Hamlet,

often doing nothing more
then ironing pieces of paper in the platen
then wrinkling them into balls
to flick into the wicker basket.

Still, at least I was making noise,
adding to the great secretarial din,
that chorus of clacking and bells,
thousands of desks receding into the past.

And that was more than can be said
for the mute rooms of furniture,
the speechless cruets of oil and vinegar,
and the tall silent hedges surrounding the house.

Such deep silence on those nights —
just the sound of my typing
and a few stars singing a song their mother
sang when they were mere babies in the sky.