Billy Collins

Home Life
March 20, 2012 Collins Billy

Home Life


I was sitting still in an armchair

with nothing on my mind but birdsong

and the appearance of a bookcase,

yet I felt a distinct sensation of travel.


Several countries seemed to slip by

as if I were on a morning train

heading across a wide plain

into the mountains, the window full of cows.


I stayed in the chair for about an hour–

the moody hour before dinner–

but it felt like several months,

one of them featuring a national holiday.


Finally, the winter sun sank

behind the silhouette of a landscape,

leaving me alone in the dark where

the sound of breathing seemed to be coming,


not from the dog on the rug,

but from a lost tribesman tending his cook fire,

a thread of blue smoke rising

from a forest on a continent directly to the south.

Billy Collins’ most recent book is Musical Tables. His poetry collections include Sailing Alone Around the Room: New and Selected Poems (2001); Picnic, Lightning (1998); and The Art of Drowning (1995). In October 2004, Collins was the inaugural recipient of the Poetry Foundation’s Mark Twain Award for humorous poetry. His other awards and honors include fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Guggenheim Foundation. He has served as a Literary Lion of the New York Public Library and is a distinguished professor of English at Lehman College, City University of New York, where he has taught for the past 40 years. He is also Senior Distinguished Fellow of the Winter Park Institute in Florida and, as of 2015, an MFA faculty member at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. In 2016, Collins was elected into The American Academy of Arts and Letters.