Billy Collins

Near the Sea
December 16, 2016 Collins Billy

Near the Sea


All manner of birds love this windbreak hedge
thickly covering the slope of a dune,
offering shadowy places to hide within
and twigs to perch on for a moment in the sun.

More heard than seen,
they are apt to disappear into the dark
interior, sequestered like birds in an ode,
to pause in their flights or to fortify a nest.

How could they know that anyone
floating in a swimming pool nearby
was paying more attention to their motions
than to anything he had seen so far that day?

At first, I tried to guess their arrivals
and departures, but in the end
it was their fidelity to their own notes,
the little phrase each one would sing for life,

that got me up and out, dripping wet,
to wander around inside, looking for a pen.

Billy Collins’ latest collection is Musical Tables: Poems (Random House 2022). In 2017, he was admitted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters.