Sunday, May 01, 2011

Horoscopes for the Dead by Billy Collins

Whenever a new collection of poetry by Billy Collins appears, I drop everything on my TBR list and read. I have already been through this volume three times, and I absolutely love nearly every poem in it.

I met Mr. Collins last year in Louisville, KY, and had him sign a paperback copy of the collection, Picnic, Lightening, which has my favorite Collins poem in it, “Shoveling Snow with the Buddha.” As I have written before, if I can ever write a poem that someone who knows says, “It reminds me of Billy Collins,” I will consider myself a poet.

About 20 poems are starred, and it was quite a struggle to emerge with one to reproduce here, but I did it. “Two Creatures” represents everything I love about poetry, everything I love about Billy Collins, and everything I aspire to in my own work:

"The last time I looked, the dog was lying
on the freshly cut grass
but now she has moved under the picnic table.

I wonder what causes her to shift
from one place to another,
to get up for no apparent reason from her spot

by the stove, scratch one ear,
then relocate, slumping down
on the other side of the room by the big window,

or I will see her hop onto the couch to nap
then later find her down
on the Turkish carpet, her nose in the fringe.

The moon rolls across the night sky
and stops to peer down on the earth,
and the dog rolls through these rooms

and onto the lawn, pausing here and there
to sleep or to stare up at me, head in her paws,
to consider the scentless pen in my hand

or the open book on my lap.
And because her eyes always follow me,
she must wonder, too, why

I shift from place to place,
from the couch to the sink
or the pencil sharpener on the wall –

two creatures bound by the wonderment
though unlike her, I have never once worried
after letting her out the back door

that she would take off in the car
and leave me to die
behind the solid locked doors of this house." (53-54)

No comment necessary. If you read this and don’t get it, I am sorry. Keep trying. Perhaps one day, it will settle into your mind, and you will know. 5 stars.

--Chiron, 5/1/11

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