Provost Bill Bussey, To My Favorite 17-Year-Old High School Girl
Back in 2011, I had the pleasure of sitting next to poet Billy Collins at the Harvard Bookstore for a reading from what was then his latest publication Horoscopes from the Dead. A decade earlier, Collins had spoken at Nobles two weeks after 9/11. We spoke for a couple minutes prior to him taking the lectern. When I mentioned Nobles, he perked up politely. I am sure that his many appearances blur together, but his presence and poetry at Nobles during that time brought needed comfort to this community. I will always have a soft spot for Billy Collins, the person and poet.
During his reading that evening, he trotted out a poem that was so recent that it had not made it into his latest collection. It made me laugh out loud. Afterwards, I tried in vain to get a copy. Last October, nearly two years later, Collins released the terrific Aimless Love: New and Selected Poems (Random House) and there it was.
So, as I head off on sabbatical, I leave this for you. Thank you for your continued faith, loyalty and support for our wonderful school.
See you next September.
To My Favorite 17-Year-Old High School Girl
By Billy Collins
Do you realize that if you had started
building the Parthenon on the day you were born
you would be all done in only one more year?
Of course, you couldn't have done it alone,
so never mind, you're fine just as you are.
You are loved for simply being yourself.
But did you know that at your age Judy Garland
was pulling down $150,000 a picture,
Joan of Arc was leading the French army to victory,
and Blaise Pascal had cleaned up his room?
No wait. He had invented the calculator.
Of course there will be time for that later in your life
after you come out of your room
and begin to blossom, or at least pick up all your socks.
For some reason, I keep remembering that Lady Jane Grey,
was Queen of England when she was only fifteen,
but then she was beheaded, so never mind her as a role model.
A few centuries later, when he was your age,
Franz Schubert was doing the dishes for his family
but that did not keep him from composing two symphonies,
four operas, and two complete Masses as a youngster.
But of course that was in Austria at the height
of romantic lyricism, not here in the suburbs of Cleveland.
Frankly, who cares if Annie Oakley was a crack shot at 15
or if Maria Callas debuted at Tosca at 17?
We think you are special by just being you,
playing with your food and staring into space.
By the way, I lied about Schubert doing the dishes,
but that doesn't mean he never helped out around the house.