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Best Famous Billy Collins Poems

Here is a collection of the all-time best famous Billy Collins poems. This is a select list of the best famous Billy Collins poetry. Reading, writing, and enjoying famous Billy Collins poetry (as well as classical and contemporary poems) is a great past time. These top poems are the best examples of Billy Collins poems.

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Written by Billy Collins |


 Remember the 1340's? We were doing a dance called the Catapult.
You always wore brown, the color craze of the decade, and I was draped in one of those capes that were popular, the ones with unicorns and pomegranates in needlework.
Everyone would pause for beer and onions in the afternoon, and at night we would play a game called "Find the Cow.
" Everything was hand-lettered then, not like today.
Where has the summer of 1572 gone? Brocade and sonnet marathons were the rage.
We used to dress up in the flags of rival baronies and conquer one another in cold rooms of stone.
Out on the dance floor we were all doing the Struggle while your sister practiced the Daphne all alone in her room.
We borrowed the jargon of farriers for our slang.
These days language seems transparent a badly broken code.
The 1790's will never come again.
Childhood was big.
People would take walks to the very tops of hills and write down what they saw in their journals without speaking.
Our collars were high and our hats were extremely soft.
We would surprise each other with alphabets made of twigs.
It was a wonderful time to be alive, or even dead.
I am very fond of the period between 1815 and 1821.
Europe trembled while we sat still for our portraits.
And I would love to return to 1901 if only for a moment, time enough to wind up a music box and do a few dance steps, or shoot me back to 1922 or 1941, or at least let me recapture the serenity of last month when we picked berries and glided through afternoons in a canoe.
Even this morning would be an improvement over the present.
I was in the garden then, surrounded by the hum of bees and the Latin names of flowers, watching the early light flash off the slanted windows of the greenhouse and silver the limbs on the rows of dark hemlocks.
As usual, I was thinking about the moments of the past, letting my memory rush over them like water rushing over the stones on the bottom of a stream.
I was even thinking a little about the future, that place where people are doing a dance we cannot imagine, a dance whose name we can only guess.

Written by Billy Collins |


 Today I pass the time reading
a favorite haiku,
saying the few words over and over.
It feels like eating the same small, perfect grape again and again.
I walk through the house reciting it and leave its letters falling through the air of every room.
I stand by the big silence of the piano and say it.
I say it in front of a painting of the sea.
I tap out its rhythm on an empty shelf.
I listen to myself saying it, then I say it without listening, then I hear it without saying it.
And when the dog looks up at me, I kneel down on the floor and whisper it into each of his long white ears.
It's the one about the one-ton temple bell with the moth sleeping on its surface, and every time I say it, I feel the excruciating pressure of the moth on the surface of the iron bell.
When I say it at the window, the bell is the world and I am the moth resting there.
When I say it at the mirror, I am the heavy bell and the moth is life with its papery wings.
And later, when I say it to you in the dark, you are the bell, and I am the tongue of the bell, ringing you, and the moth has flown from its line and moves like a hinge in the air above our bed.

Written by Billy Collins |


 Smokey the Bear heads
into the autumn woods
with a red can of gasoline
and a box of wooden matches.
His ranger's hat is cocked at a disturbing angle.
His brown fur gleams under the high sun as his paws, the size of catcher's mitts, crackle into the distance.
He is sick of dispensing warnings to the careless, the half-wit camper, the dumbbell hiker.
He is going to show them how a professional does it.

More great poems below...

Written by Billy Collins |

Man Listening To Disc

 This is not bad --
ambling along 44th Street
with Sonny Rollins for company,
his music flowing through the soft calipers
of these earphones,

as if he were right beside me
on this clear day in March,
the pavement sparkling with sunlight,
pigeons fluttering off the curb,
nodding over a profusion of bread crumbs.
In fact, I would say my delight at being suffused with phrases from his saxophone -- some like honey, some like vinegar -- is surpassed only by my gratitude to Tommy Potter for taking the time to join us on this breezy afternoon with his most unwieldy bass and to the esteemed Arthur Taylor who is somehow managing to navigate this crowd with his cumbersome drums.
And I bow deeply to Thelonious Monk for figuring out a way to motorize -- or whatever -- his huge piano so he could be with us today.
This music is loud yet so confidential.
I cannot help feeling even more like the center of the universe than usual as I walk along to a rapid little version of "The Way You Look Tonight," and all I can say to my fellow pedestrians, to the woman in the white sweater, the man in the tan raincoat and the heavy glasses, who mistake themselves for the center of the universe -- all I can say is watch your step, because the five of us, instruments and all, are about to angle over to the south side of the street and then, in our own tightly knit way, turn the corner at Sixth Avenue.
And if any of you are curious about where this aggregation, this whole battery-powered crew, is headed, let us just say that the real center of the universe, the only true point of view, is full of hope that he, the hub of the cosmos with his hair blown sideways, will eventually make it all the way downtown.

Written by Billy Collins |


 They say you can jinx a poem
if you talk about it before it is done.
If you let it out too early, they warn, your poem will fly away, and this time they are absolutely right.
Take the night I mentioned to you I wanted to write about the madmen, as the newspapers so blithely call them, who attack art, not in reviews, but with breadknives and hammers in the quiet museums of Prague and Amsterdam.
Actually, they are the real artists, you said, spinning the ice in your glass.
The screwdriver is their brush.
The real vandals are the restorers, you went on, slowly turning me upside-down, the ones in the white doctor's smocks who close the wound in the landscape, and thus ruin the true art of the mad.
I watched my poem fly down to the front of the bar and hover there until the next customer walked in-- then I watched it fly out the open door into the night and sail away, I could only imagine, over the dark tenements of the city.
All I had wished to say was that art was also short, as a razor can teach with a slash or two, that it only seems long compared to life, but that night, I drove home alone with nothing swinging in the cage of my heart except the faint hope that I might catch a glimpse of the thing in the fan of my headlights, maybe perched on a road sign or a street lamp, poor unwritten bird, its wings folded, staring down at me with tiny illuminated eyes.

Written by Billy Collins |

The Art Of Drowning

 I wonder how it all got started, this business
about seeing your life flash before your eyes
while you drown, as if panic, or the act of submergence,
could startle time into such compression, crushing
decades in the vice of your desperate, final seconds.
After falling off a steamship or being swept away in a rush of floodwaters, wouldn't you hope for a more leisurely review, an invisible hand turning the pages of an album of photographs- you up on a pony or blowing out candles in a conic hat.
How about a short animated film, a slide presentation? Your life expressed in an essay, or in one model photograph? Wouldn't any form be better than this sudden flash? Your whole existence going off in your face in an eyebrow-singeing explosion of biography- nothing like the three large volumes you envisioned.
Survivors would have us believe in a brilliance here, some bolt of truth forking across the water, an ultimate Light before all the lights go out, dawning on you with all its megalithic tonnage.
But if something does flash before your eyes as you go under, it will probably be a fish, a quick blur of curved silver darting away, having nothing to do with your life or your death.
The tide will take you, or the lake will accept it all as you sink toward the weedy disarray of the bottom, leaving behind what you have already forgotten, the surface, now overrun with the high travel of clouds.

Written by Billy Collins |


 If ever there were a spring day so perfect,
so uplifted by a warm intermittent breeze

that it made you want to throw
open all the windows in the house

and unlatch the door to the canary's cage,
indeed, rip the little door from its jamb,

a day when the cool brick paths
and the garden bursting with peonies

seemed so etched in sunlight
that you felt like taking

a hammer to the glass paperweight
on the living room end table,

releasing the inhabitants
from their snow-covered cottage

so they could walk out,
holding hands and squinting

into this larger dome of blue and white,
well, today is just that kind of day.

Written by Billy Collins |

Child Development

 As sure as prehistoric fish grew legs
and sauntered off the beaches into forests
working up some irregular verbs for their
first conversation, so three-year-old children
enter the phase of name-calling.
Every day a new one arrives and is added to the repertoire.
You Dumb Goopyhead, You Big Sewerface, You Poop-on-the-Floor (a kind of Navaho ring to that one) they yell from knee level, their little mugs flushed with challenge.
Nothing Samuel Johnson would bother tossing out in a pub, but then the toddlers are not trying to devastate some fatuous Enlightenment hack.
They are just tormenting their fellow squirts or going after the attention of the giants way up there with their cocktails and bad breath talking baritone nonsense to other giants, waiting to call them names after thanking them for the lovely party and hearing the door close.
The mature save their hothead invective for things: an errant hammer, tire chains, or receding trains missed by seconds, though they know in their adult hearts, even as they threaten to banish Timmy to bed for his appalling behavior, that their bosses are Big Fatty Stupids, their wives are Dopey Dopeheads and that they themselves are Mr.

Written by Billy Collins |

Another Reason Why I Dont Keep A Gun In The House

 The neighbors' dog will not stop barking.
He is barking the same high, rhythmic bark that he barks every time they leave the house.
They must switch him on on their way out.
The neighbors' dog will not stop barking.
I close all the windows in the house and put on a Beethoven symphony full blast but I can still hear him muffled under the music, barking, barking, barking, and now I can see him sitting in the orchestra, his head raised confidently as if Beethoven had included a part for barking dog.
When the record finally ends he is still barking, sitting there in the oboe section barking, his eyes fixed on the conductor who is entreating him with his baton while the other musicians listen in respectful silence to the famous barking dog solo, that endless coda that first established Beethoven as an innovative genius.

Written by Billy Collins |

I Ask You

 What scene would I want to be enveloped in
more than this one,
an ordinary night at the kitchen table,
floral wallpaper pressing in,
white cabinets full of glass,
the telephone silent,
a pen tilted back in my hand?

It gives me time to think
about all that is going on outside--
leaves gathering in corners,
lichen greening the high grey rocks,
while over the dunes the world sails on,
huge, ocean-going, history bubbling in its wake.
But beyond this table there is nothing that I need, not even a job that would allow me to row to work, or a coffee-colored Aston Martin DB4 with cracked green leather seats.
No, it's all here, the clear ovals of a glass of water, a small crate of oranges, a book on Stalin, not to mention the odd snarling fish in a frame on the wall, and the way these three candles-- each a different height-- are singing in perfect harmony.
So forgive me if I lower my head now and listen to the short bass candle as he takes a solo while my heart thrums under my shirt-- frog at the edge of a pond-- and my thoughts fly off to a province made of one enormous sky and about a million empty branches.

Written by Billy Collins |

Candle Hat

 In most self-portraits it is the face that dominates:
Cezanne is a pair of eyes swimming in brushstrokes,
Van Gogh stares out of a halo of swirling darkness,
Rembrant looks relieved as if he were taking a breather
from painting The Blinding of Sampson.
But in this one Goya stands well back from the mirror and is seen posed in the clutter of his studio addressing a canvas tilted back on a tall easel.
He appears to be smiling out at us as if he knew we would be amused by the extraordinary hat on his head which is fitted around the brim with candle holders, a device that allowed him to work into the night.
You can only wonder what it would be like to be wearing such a chandelier on your head as if you were a walking dining room or concert hall.
But once you see this hat there is no need to read any biography of Goya or to memorize his dates.
To understand Goya you only have to imagine him lighting the candles one by one, then placing the hat on his head, ready for a night of work.
Imagine him surprising his wife with his new invention, the laughing like a birthday cake when she saw the glow.
Imagine him flickering through the rooms of his house with all the shadows flying across the walls.
Imagine a lost traveler knocking on his door one dark night in the hill country of Spain.
"Come in, " he would say, "I was just painting myself," as he stood in the doorway holding up the wand of a brush, illuminated in the blaze of his famous candle hat.

Written by Billy Collins |


 The murkiness of the local garage is not so dense
that you cannot make out the calendar of pinup
drawings on the wall above a bench of tools.
Your ears are ringing with the sound of the mechanic hammering on your exhaust pipe, and as you look closer you notice that this month's is not the one pushing the lawn mower, wearing a straw hat and very short blue shorts, her shirt tied in a knot just below her breasts.
Nor is it the one in the admiral's cap, bending forward, resting her hands on a wharf piling, glancing over the tiny anchors on her shoulders.
No, this is March, the month of great winds, so appropriately it is the one walking her dog along a city sidewalk on a very blustery day.
One hand is busy keeping her hat down on her head and the other is grasping the little dog's leash, so of course there is no hand left to push down her dress which is billowing up around her waist exposing her long stockinged legs and yes the secret apparatus of her garter belt.
Needless to say, in the confusion of wind and excited dog the leash has wrapped itself around her ankles several times giving her a rather bridled and helpless appearance which is added to by the impossibly high heels she is teetering on.
You would like to come to her rescue, gather up the little dog in your arms, untangle the leash, lead her to safety, and receive her bottomless gratitude, but the mechanic is calling you over to look at something under your car.
It seems that he has run into a problem and the job is going to cost more than he had said and take much longer than he had thought.
Well, it can't be helped, you hear yourself say as you return to your place by the workbench, knowing that as soon as the hammering resumes you will slowly lift the bottom of the calendar just enough to reveal a glimpse of what the future holds in store: ah, the red polka dot umbrella of April and her upturned palm extended coyly into the rain.

Written by Billy Collins |


 It could be the name of a prehistoric beast
that roamed the Paleozoic earth, rising up
on its hind legs to show off its large vocabulary,
or some lover in a myth who is metamorphosed into a book.
It means treasury, but it is just a place where words congregate with their relatives, a big park where hundreds of family reunions are always being held, house, home, abode, dwelling, lodgings, and digs, all sharing the same picnic basket and thermos; hairy, hirsute, woolly, furry, fleecy, and shaggy all running a sack race or throwing horseshoes, inert, static, motionless, fixed and immobile standing and kneeling in rows for a group photograph.
Here father is next to sire and brother close to sibling, separated only by fine shades of meaning.
And every group has its odd cousin, the one who traveled the farthest to be here: astereognosis, polydipsia, or some eleven syllable, unpronounceable substitute for the word tool.
Even their own relatives have to squint at their name tags.
I can see my own copy up on a high shelf.
I rarely open it, because I know there is no such thing as a synonym and because I get nervous around people who always assemble with their own kind, forming clubs and nailing signs to closed front doors while others huddle alone in the dark streets.
I would rather see words out on their own, away from their families and the warehouse of Roget, wandering the world where they sometimes fall in love with a completely different word.
Surely, you have seen pairs of them standing forever next to each other on the same line inside a poem, a small chapel where weddings like these, between perfect strangers, can take place.

Written by Billy Collins |

Snow Day

 Today we woke up to a revolution of snow,
its white flag waving over everything,
the landscape vanished,
not a single mouse to punctuate the blankness,
and beyond these windows

the government buildings smothered,
schools and libraries buried, the post office lost
under the noiseless drift,
the paths of trains softly blocked,
the world fallen under this falling.
In a while I will put on some boots and step out like someone walking in water, and the dog will porpoise through the drifts, and I will shake a laden branch, sending a cold shower down on us both.
But for now I am a willing prisoner in this house, a sympathizer with the anarchic cause of snow.
I will make a pot of tea and listen to the plastic radio on the counter, as glad as anyone to hear the news that the Kiddie Corner School is closed, the Ding-Dong School, closed, the All Aboard Children's School, closed, the Hi-Ho Nursery School, closed, along with -- some will be delighted to hear -- the Toadstool School, the Little School, Little Sparrows Nursery School, Little Stars Pre-School, Peas-and-Carrots Day School, the Tom Thumb Child Center, all closed, and -- clap your hands -- the Peanuts Play School.
So this is where the children hide all day, These are the nests where they letter and draw, where they put on their bright miniature jackets, all darting and climbing and sliding, all but the few girls whispering by the fence.
And now I am listening hard in the grandiose silence of the snow, trying to hear what those three girls are plotting, what riot is afoot, which small queen is about to be brought down.

Written by Billy Collins |


 Now it is time to say what you have to say.
The room is quiet.
The whirring fan has been unplugged, and the girl who was tapping a pencil on her desktop has been removed.
So tell us what is on your mind.
We want to hear the sound of your foliage, the unraveling of your tool kit, your songs of loneliness, your songs of hurt.
The trains are motionless on the tracks, the ships are at restn the harbor.
The dogs are cocking their heads and the gods are peering down from their balloons.
The town is hushed, and everyone here has a copy.
So tell us about your parents— your father behind the steering wheel, your cruel mother at the sink.
Let's hear about all the clouds you saw, all the trees.
Read the poem you brought with you tonight.
The ocean has stopped sloshing around, and even Beethoven is sitting up in his deathbed, his cold hearing horn inserted in one ear.