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August 23, 1992

"Public restrooms give me the willies."

-Ad for a disinfectant

There is no known cure for them,

unlike the heebie-jeebies

or the shakes

which Russian vodka and a hot bath

will smooth out.

The drifties can be licked,

though the vapors often spell trouble.

The whips-and-jangles

go away in time. So do the fantods.

And good company will put the blues

to flight

and do much to relieve the flips,

the quivers and the screamies.

But the willies are another matter.

Anything can give them to you:

electric chairs, raw meat, manta rays,

public restrooms, a footprint,

and every case of the willies

is a bad one.

Some days flow with them, ride them out,

but this is useless advice

once you are in their grip.

There is no way to get on top

of the willies. Valium

is ineffective. Hospitals

are not the answer.

Keeping still

and emitting thin, evenly spaced

waves of irony

may help

but don't expect miracles:

the willies are the willies.

From "Questions About Angels" (Quill/William Morrow: $9.; 105 pp.) . Billy Collins was born in New York and educated at the UC Riverside. "Questions About Angels" is his fourth book of poetry. Many of the poems will make you laugh out loud, as they take subjects that are scary or monumental and bring them down to manageable size. When they are not funny, they are scary. 1990 by Billy Collins. Reprinted by permission.

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