Billy Collins

(22 March 1941 - / New York City)

I Ask You


What scene would I want to be enveloped in
more than this one,
an ordinary night at the kitchen table,
floral wallpaper pressing in,
white cabinets full of glass,
the telephone silent,
a pen tilted back in my hand?

It gives me time to think
about all that is going on outside--
leaves gathering in corners,
lichen greening the high grey rocks,
while over the dunes the world sails on,
huge, ocean-going, history bubbling in its wake.

But beyond this table
there is nothing that I need,
not even a job that would allow me to row to work,
or a coffee-colored Aston Martin DB4
with cracked green leather seats.

No, it's all here,
the clear ovals of a glass of water,
a small crate of oranges, a book on Stalin,
not to mention the odd snarling fish
in a frame on the wall,
and the way these three candles--
each a different height--
are singing in perfect harmony.

So forgive me
if I lower my head now and listen
to the short bass candle as he takes a solo
while my heart
thrums under my shirt--
frog at the edge of a pond--
and my thoughts fly off to a province
made of one enormous sky
and about a million empty branches.

Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003

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  • Rene Agnes (6/30/2014 8:53:00 PM)

    What scene would I want to be enveloped in
    more than this one,
    an ordinary night at the kitchen table,
    floral wallpaper pressing in,
    white cabinets full of glass,
    the telephone silent,
    a pen tilted back in my hand? (Report) Reply

  • * Sunprincess * (3/14/2014 8:02:00 PM)

    So forgive me
    if I lower my head now and listen
    to the short bass candle as he takes a solo
    while my heart
    thrums under my shirt-
    frog at the edge of a pond-
    and my thoughts fly off to a province
    made of one enormous sky
    and about a million empty branches. (Report) Reply

  • K Ormosi (3/26/2013 8:46:00 PM)

    I Tell You

    I am envious of your candle,
    having only a cheap logoed cup with two sad pens busy inking the bottom
    in lieu of tea.
    And a black phone silently telling me I have seven missed calls
    none of which compel me to return them
    as I am busy
    gazing out my window
    where the winter oaks just beyond the parking lot
    dream of medieval forests
    and small albino deer. (Report) Reply

  • Mary-Margaret Beaton (12/16/2007 7:09:00 AM)

    now isn't that just what everybody needs eventually........a place to call 'home'........after being on those paths, wandering for so long..........it makes me think of getting old (Report) Reply

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