The Art Of Drowning Poem by Billy Collins

The Art Of Drowning

Rating: 4.1


I wonder how it all got started, this business
about seeing your life flash before your eyes
while you drown, as if panic, or the act of submergence,
could startle time into such compression, crushing
decades in the vice of your desperate, final seconds.

After falling off a steamship or being swept away
in a rush of floodwaters, wouldn't you hope
for a more leisurely review, an invisible hand
turning the pages of an album of photographs-
you up on a pony or blowing out candles in a conic hat.

How about a short animated film, a slide presentation?
Your life expressed in an essay, or in one model photograph?
Wouldn't any form be better than this sudden flash?
Your whole existence going off in your face
in an eyebrow-singeing explosion of biography-
nothing like the three large volumes you envisioned.

Survivors would have us believe in a brilliance
here, some bolt of truth forking across the water,
an ultimate Light before all the lights go out,
dawning on you with all its megalithic tonnage.
But if something does flash before your eyes
as you go under, it will probably be a fish,

a quick blur of curved silver darting away,
having nothing to do with your life or your death.
The tide will take you, or the lake will accept it all
as you sink toward the weedy disarray of the bottom,
leaving behind what you have already forgotten,
the surface, now overrun with the high travel of clouds.

COMMENTS OF THE POEM
Susan Williams 28 April 2016

I enjoy his voice. He can describe with the best, he can characterize also with the best, but what some best can't do is keep up with his wit.

11 1 Reply
Kim Barney 28 April 2016

Artfully done and full of humor. Collins is at his best here.

2 1 Reply
* Sunprincess * 28 April 2016

............beautiful imagery ? a quick blur of curved silver darting away,

2 1 Reply
Joseph Pedulla 15 December 2017

He wonders how it all got started this business about seeing your life flash before your eyes while you drown? It all got started because it happens, Billy! Why can't this guy put on display the mysteries of the life he notices around himself rather than these hypotheticals he delights in.

1 1 Reply
Nadine Davis 09 February 2018

Dang Joseph... you missed it.....

0 0 Reply
Joseph Mamazia 05 March 2020

what da difference between wat we see and wat we think that we see

0 0 Reply
Joeseph Mama 05 March 2020

what do we hope for when we do be dead?

0 0 Reply
Khairul Ahsan 07 September 2018

'an ultimate Light before all the lights go out, dawning on you with all its megalithic tonnage. But if something does flash before your eyes as you go under, it will probably be a fish' - a marvelous imagery! Loved the humor with which a grave situation has been described in such a artful way.

1 0 Reply
Susan Williams 04 September 2018

Does anyone else have a problem with the poems flipping to another poem while you are reading it or commenting on it?

2 0 Reply
Anthony Mary jones 04 September 2018

Fascinating poem...the topic of the poem is carefully treated with some intending humour

0 0 Reply
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