Billy Collins

View From a Shrinking Floe
January 12, 2015 Collins Billy

View From a Shrinking Floe


Beyond the boats freed from the dripping ice

and all the bewildered sailors,

beyond the breadth of the melting tundra,


finally, the last polar bear

paddling away from us with its head raised,

a female, it was later discovered,


though she reminded me of my father,

his stark white hair toward the end

and the hands constantly moving on the tray of his chair.




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.