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’ 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.