Looking through windows or stones.


The birds are in their trees,
the toast is in the toaster,
and the poets are at their windows.

They are at their windows
in every section of the tangerine of earth–
the Chinese poets looking up at the moon,
the American poets gazing out
at the pink and blue ribbons of sunrise.

The clerks are at their desks,
the miners are down in their mines,
and the poets are looking out their windows
maybe with a cigarette, a cup of tea,
and maybe a flannel shirt or bathrobe is involved.

The proofreaders are playing the ping-pong
game of proofreading,
glancing back and forth from page to page,
the chefs are dicing celery and potatoes,
and the poets are at their windows
because it is their job for which
they are paid nothing every Friday afternoon.

Which window it hardly seems to matter
though many have a favorite,
for there is always something to see–
a bird grasping a thin branch,
the headlight of a taxi rounding a corner,
those two boys in wool caps angling across the street.

The fishermen bob in their boats,
the linemen climb their round poles,
the barbers wait by their mirrors and chairs,
and the poets continue to stare at the cracked birdbath
or a limb knocked down by the wind.

By now, it should go without saying
that what the oven is to the baker
and the berry-stained blouse to the dry cleaner,
so the window is to the poet.

Just think–
before the invention of the window,
the poets would have had to put on a jacket
and a winter hat to go outside
or remain indoors with only a wall to stare at.

And when I say a wall,
I do not mean a wall with striped wallpaper
and a sketch of a cow in a frame.

I mean a cold wall of fieldstones,
the wall of the medieval sonnet,
the original woman’s heart of stone,
the stone caught in the throat of her poet-lover.

-Billy Collins

I found this poem recently on A Poem a Day.

Durham Cathedral from Durham Castle, 2005. Pippin photo.

6 thoughts on “Looking through windows or stones.

  1. Well of course I had to read this poem since both my blogs are window based, and I scrolled down to see who wrote it before reading. I knew I was in for a treat from Mr. Collins who my friend Poppy, a devoted fan of his, introduced me to a few years ago. I immediately pictured him at the window clad in his oldest bathrobe and imagine he did have his share of Friday afternoons with no pay early on. He came to Nashville a few years ago and I was supposed to go hear him read until a dear dog passed away and I was too heartbroken to attend. Fortunately, friends had him sign a book for me and after reading it I lovingly mailed it to Poppy, thousands of miles away.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. As I read the poem I thought it sounded like Billy Collins’ voice, and so it is. I love the imagery of the poet as onlooker and chronicler of life. Thank you for sharing this with us.

    Liked by 1 person

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