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

  • (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.

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  • Kinyua Karanja (7/8/2015 2:19:00 AM)

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

  • (1/29/2015 8:06:00 AM)

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

  • (1/29/2015 8:03:00 AM)

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

  • (3/22/2012 4:08:00 AM)

    multi-layered art of poetry (Report) Reply

  • (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

    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! ! ! ! !

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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

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