Billy Collins

(22 March 1941 - / New York City)

The Art Of Drowning - Poem by Billy Collins

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.


Comments about The Art Of Drowning by Billy Collins

  • Susan Williams Susan Williams (4/28/2016 5:46:00 PM)

    I enjoy his voice. He can describe with the best, he can characterize also with the best, but what some best can't do is keep up with his wit. (Report) Reply

    3 person liked.
    1 person did not like.
  • Kim Barney (4/28/2016 11:22:00 AM)

    Artfully done and full of humor. Collins is at his best here. (Report) Reply

  • * Sunprincess * (4/28/2016 10:59:00 AM)

    ............beautiful imagery ★
    a quick blur of curved silver darting away, (Report) Reply

  • Barry Middleton Barry Middleton (4/28/2016 7:08:00 AM)

    Always loved the wit, wisdom and humor of billy Collins' work. (Report) Reply

  • Ratnakar Mandlik (4/28/2016 6:34:00 AM)

    A beautifully envisioned poem crafted with great expertise. Thanks for sharing it here. (Report) Reply

  • Simone Inez Harriman Simone Inez Harriman (4/28/2016 1:50:00 AM)

    Cleverly penned and gleaming with humor.

    '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.'

    Hilarious, thank you for sharing....10 (Report) Reply

  • Edward Kofi Louis Edward Kofi Louis (4/28/2016 1:42:00 AM)

    Your whole existence going off in your face! Thanks for sharing this poem with us. (Report) Reply

Read all 7 comments »



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Read poems about / on: travel, fish, believe, silver, truth, water, hope, death, life, light, fishing



Poem Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003



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