“May Day” by Billy Collins

Billy Collins


That was the day we made love
in a room without a bed,
a room of tall windows and a rose ceiling,
and then we moved outside
and sat there on a high deck
watching the pelicans dive into the waves
as we drank chilled white wine,
and after a little while
I put a finger in your hair and twirled it,
and you smiled and kept looking at the sea.
It must have been almost seven
when I found the car keys and kissed you
because you said you would make us
a really interesting dinner
if I picked up some things at the market.
And the blue sky was still illuminated
as I walked across the parking lot
and through the electric doors,
for the days of the year
were now increasing by the minute,

and I will not soon forget how,
after I had filled the basket
with two brook trout,
asparagus, lemons, and parsley,
rum-raisin ice cream, and a watermelon,
the check-out girl—
no more than a junior in high school—
handed me the change
and told me I should have a nice day.

from Rattle #51, Spring 2016


Billy Collins: “‘May Day’ is one of many poems of mine that was inspired by an irritant, in this case, those persistent and empty words we hear on leaving a store: yes, I mean ‘Have a nice day.’ But here, rather than being annoyed, the speaker is struck by the irony that the happy-face wish was delivered during the progress of the kind of ‘nice’ day the cashier is probably too young to even imagine.”

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