Billy Collins

(22 March 1941 - / New York City)

Shoveling Snow With Buddha

Poem by Billy Collins

In the usual iconography of the temple or the local Wok
you would never see him doing such a thing,
tossing the dry snow over a mountain
of his bare, round shoulder,
his hair tied in a knot,
a model of concentration.

Sitting is more his speed, if that is the word
for what he does, or does not do.

Even the season is wrong for him.
In all his manifestations, is it not warm or slightly humid?
Is this not implied by his serene expression,
that smile so wide it wraps itself around the waist of the universe?

But here we are, working our way down the driveway,
one shovelful at a time.
We toss the light powder into the clear air.
We feel the cold mist on our faces.
And with every heave we disappear
and become lost to each other
in these sudden clouds of our own making,
these fountain-bursts of snow.

This is so much better than a sermon in church,
I say out loud, but Buddha keeps on shoveling.
This is the true religion, the religion of snow,
and sunlight and winter geese barking in the sky,
I say, but he is too busy to hear me.

He has thrown himself into shoveling snow
as if it were the purpose of existence,
as if the sign of a perfect life were a clear driveway
you could back the car down easily
and drive off into the vanities of the world
with a broken heater fan and a song on the radio.

All morning long we work side by side,
me with my commentary
and he inside his generous pocket of silence,
until the hour is nearly noon
and the snow is piled high all around us;
then, I hear him speak.

After this, he asks,
can we go inside and play cards?

Certainly, I reply, and I will heat some milk
and bring cups of hot chocolate to the table
while you shuffle the deck.
and our boots stand dripping by the door.

Aaah, says the Buddha, lifting his eyes
and leaning for a moment on his shovel
before he drives the thin blade again
deep into the glittering white snow.

Topic(s) of this poem: snow

Comments about Shoveling Snow With Buddha by Billy Collins

  • Dr Tony BrahminDr Tony Brahmin (6/25/2020 10:14:00 AM)

    Aaah, says the Buddha, lifting his eyes
    and leaning for a moment on his shovel
    before he drives the thin blade again
    deep into the glittering white snow. a fine poem. tony(Report)Reply

    0 person liked.
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  • Mr.PoopiePants (5/10/2019 11:55:00 AM)

    This Poem is very good. Billy Collins is a VERY GOOD FRICKIN POET SUBCRIBE TO PEWDIEPIE OR DARTHVADER! ! ! ! ! ! BTW THIS KID NAMED M I L E S IS(Report)Reply

    1 person liked.
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  • Tommy Stroller (8/5/2018 4:27:00 PM)

    A fine piece of work, nicely judged between the practical acts of snow-clearing and the Zen of its uselessness(Report)Reply

    0 person liked.
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  • Madeline Bishop (3/28/2018 6:37:00 PM)

    Does any one else who reads/likes French poetry see that his voice is much like that of Jacques Prévert? Prévert is also considered a people's poet although I think his use of the poem's structure to convey meaning is perhaps a bit more skillful than that of Collins. Regardless, I love them both!(Report)Reply

    1 person liked.
    0 person did not like.
  • Dorrie King (4/30/2017 4:48:00 PM)

    Doesn't he mean Wat, a temple in Thailand, and not Wok?(Report)Reply

    Ilene Kasper(11/24/2017 10:30:00 AM)

    HI Dorrie, I interpreted the use of the word wok (a type of pan used in Chinese cooking) to symbolize a statue of Buddha that you often see in Asian restaurants.

    3 person liked.
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  • Kinyua KaranjaKinyua Karanja (7/8/2015 2:19:00 AM)

    Great poem of these days I just liked it.(Report)Reply

    5 person liked.
    3 person did not like.
  • Gangadharan Nair Pulingat (1/29/2015 8:06:00 AM)

    A marvelous poem and it is good.(Report)Reply

    5 person liked.
    3 person did not like.
  • Gangadharan Nair Pulingat (1/29/2015 8:03:00 AM)

    Great imagination and it is a nice poem.(Report)Reply

    6 person liked.
    3 person did not like.
  • Ellie- Daphne (3/22/2012 4:08:00 AM)

    multi-layered art of poetry(Report)Reply

    17 person liked.
    5 person did not like.
  • Russell Guard (7/6/2008 3:34:00 PM)

    'he inside his generous pocket of silence' Yeats would have loved that line
    and wished it was his own!(Report)Reply

    larry potalivo(10/23/2018 5:58:00 AM)

    Well said, there are some that would do well to find a pocket of silence. Thanks to Mr Collins and his melody of words and wisdom.

    Joseph Pedulla(10/26/2016 6:13:00 AM)

    Yeats would not have been so stupid as to put such a fine image in the midst of pablum like this. You really cannot think this is poetry, can you? This easy, prose-quality, Hallmark rubbish? As E. Berdovsky says so well, From mawkish to sentimental to pseudo-profound! ! ! ! !

    17 person liked.
    6 person did not like.
Read all 13 comments »

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word flags

Read poems about / on: snow, chocolate, car, winter, silence, work, hair, song, smile, lost, sky, light, world

Poem Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003

Poem Edited: Thursday, January 8, 2015