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

  • Robert Murray Smith (11/8/2018 12:23:00 AM)

    An unusal poem. I enjoyed it immensely. (Report) Reply

    0 person liked.
    0 person did not like.
  • (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

  • (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

  • (4/30/2017 4:48:00 PM)

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

    (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.

  • 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

    (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.

    (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! ! ! ! !

Read all 12 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

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

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]