Billy Collins

(22 March 1941 - / New York City)

I Ask You - Poem by Billy Collins

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.


Comments about I Ask You by Billy Collins

  • Subhas Chandra Chakra (2/24/2018 11:57:00 PM)


    A poem so brilliantly written.
    Thanks for sharing and congrats for being picked.
    (Report) Reply

    1 person liked.
    0 person did not like.
  • Damion Hamilton (2/24/2018 4:54:00 PM)


    This poem is excellent with so many layers and imagery. The work of a master. (Report) Reply

  • Glen Kappy (2/24/2018 9:57:00 AM)


    though i can think of better scenes to suit me, i smile at and appreciate collins' expression of contentment and the rich—so rich—sensory details and humorous excursions of imagination that characterize so much of his work. -GK (Report) Reply

  • Edward Kofi Louis (2/24/2018 2:57:00 AM)


    So forgive me! ! Thanks for sharing this poem with us. (Report) Reply

  • Kumarmani Mahakul (2/24/2018 1:23:00 AM)


    Beautifully composed. Nice penmanship. Thanks and congratulations for being selected this poem as the poem of the day. (Report) Reply

  • Bernard F. Asuncion (2/24/2018 1:05:00 AM)


    Billy, such a brilliant poem... congrats for being picked... a big 10+++ (Report) Reply

  • Isaac Halberstadt (8/12/2017 12:05:00 AM)


    This one is...weird. In that it's not...weird.
    Collins' poetry usually has a playful and facetious edge to it, a twist or mystery wrapped up inside that belies the otherwise commonplace phrasing. Of course, we all need a little break from cynicism and smartassery every once in a while, and maybe this is just him enjoying the simplicity of the moment for once, but, compared to his other stuff, this one just seems oddly sincere. Unless, of course, I'm not getting the joke
    (Report) Reply

  • (10/25/2016 12:29:00 PM)

    I ask you
    Collins doesn't know when to end an image. He always strings it out far too long, as in the line or a coffee-colored Aston Martin DB4/ with cracked green leather seats. The level of specificity is overdone, and the time-bound reference to a particular car made by a particular company will date the poem in very little time. Bad judgment. (Report) Reply

  • Affan Fly (9/22/2016 5:56:00 AM)


    wonderful written........superb thinking...........nice poem (Report) Reply

  • Affan Fly (9/22/2016 5:53:00 AM)


    superb written..............wonderful
    .
    (Report) Reply

  • (6/30/2014 8:53:00 PM)


    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?
    (Report) Reply

  • (3/14/2014 8:02:00 PM)


    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.
    (Report) Reply

  • Heather Wilkins (7/1/2013 3:10:00 PM)


    beautiful write. I enjoyed he read (Report) Reply

  • (3/26/2013 8:46:00 PM)


    I Tell You

    I am envious of your candle,
    having only a cheap logoed cup with two sad pens busy inking the bottom
    in lieu of tea.
    And a black phone silently telling me I have seven missed calls
    none of which compel me to return them
    as I am busy
    gazing out my window
    where the winter oaks just beyond the parking lot
    dream of medieval forests
    and small albino deer.
    (Report) Reply

  • Wahab Abdul (5/30/2012 8:14:00 AM)


    its a nice poem i like it.... (Report) Reply

  • (12/16/2007 7:09:00 AM)


    now isn't that just what everybody needs eventually........a place to call 'home'........after being on those paths, wandering for so long..........it makes me think of getting old (Report) Reply

Read all 16 comments »




Read this poem in other languages

This poem has not been translated into any other language yet.

I would like to translate this poem »

word flags

What do you think this poem is about?

Read poems about / on: frog, history, fish, ocean, work, green, water, sky, world, night, time, heart, fishing



Poem Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003



Famous Poems

  1. Still I Rise
    Maya Angelou
  2. The Road Not Taken
    Robert Frost
  3. If You Forget Me
    Pablo Neruda
  4. Dreams
    Langston Hughes
  5. Annabel Lee
    Edgar Allan Poe
  6. Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening
    Robert Frost
  7. If
    Rudyard Kipling
  8. I Do Not Love You Except Because I Love You
    Pablo Neruda
  9. Do Not Stand At My Grave And Weep
    Mary Elizabeth Frye
  10. Television
    Roald Dahl
[Report Error]