I like writing about where I am,
where I happen to be sitting,
the humidity or the clouds,
the scene outside the window--
a pink tree in bloom,
a neighbor walking his small, nervous dog.
And if I am drinking
a cup of tea at the time
or a small glass of whiskey,
I will find a line to put it on.
My wife hands these poems back to me
with a sigh.
She thinks I ought to be opening up
my aperture to let in
the wild rhododendrons of Ireland,
the sun-blanched stadiums of Rome,
that waterclock in Bruges--
the world beyond my inkwell.
I tell her I will try again
and travel back to my desk
where the chair is turned to the window.
I think about the furniture of history.
I consider the globe, the lights of its cities.
I visualize a lion rampant on an iron shield,
a quiet battlefield, a granite monument.
And then--just between you and me--
I take a swallow of cold tea
and in the manner of the ancient Chinese
pick up my thin pen
and write down that bird I hear outside,
the one that sings,
then sings again.
From “Picnic, Lightning” by Billy Collins (University of Pittsburgh Press: 104 pp., $12.95 paper)