Billy Collins

(22 March 1941 - / New York City)

Japan - Poem 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.

Comments about Japan by Billy Collins

  • (10/25/2016 7:15:00 PM)

    Small, small, small ideas, said with small, small, small language. Be soft, Billy- oh, so soft and easy! Don't dare challenge anyone with anything but soft and small and small and soft! Puke, puke, puke. (Report) Reply

    0 person liked.
    9 person did not like.
  • (8/24/2016 5:26:00 AM)

    Wonderful flight of imagery coupled with fantasy. Thanks for sharing it here. (Report) Reply

  • Jasbir Chatterjee (8/24/2016 4:31:00 AM)

    Lovely poem; I like the last part the best, It will waste away to nothing, nothing but stars in the sky, and I will have a few nights to myself, a little time to rest my jittery pen. Congrats on being poet of the day! (Report) Reply

  • (7/20/2011 8:48:00 PM)

    I read this poem over and over.
    I still can't feel like a bell
    or a moth even.

    Does that mean I am a dog?
    I know I bark a lot.
    Maybe I am Kafka's beetle.

    No I wouldnt want to be that.
    I think I'd rather stand by the window
    Pretending to be nothing.
    (Report) Reply

  • (5/1/2011 2:56:00 AM)

    lovely turning of the pieces (Report) Reply

  • (1/13/2009 6:16:00 PM)

    I love the comparison to 'the perfect grape'. (Report) Reply

  • (9/20/2007 12:49:00 PM)

    it is nice. yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeyes (Report) Reply

  • (6/4/2006 9:12:00 PM)

    ohhhhhh yeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa (Report) Reply

Read all 8 comments »
User Rating:
3,6 / 5 ( 87 votes ) 8

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Read poems about / on: haiku, mirror, dog, today, silence, house, sea, dark, time, world, sleep

Poem Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003

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