Billy Collins

(22 March 1941 - / New York City)

The Art Of Drowning - Poem by Billy Collins

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 about The Art Of Drowning by Billy Collins

  • Khairul Ahsan (9/7/2018 10:00:00 PM)


    '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.
    (Report) Reply

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  • (9/4/2018 8:33:00 PM)


    Great poem so enjoyable. (Report) Reply

  • Susan Williams (9/4/2018 5:52:00 PM)


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

  • (9/4/2018 5:08:00 PM)


    Fascinating poem...the topic of the poem is carefully treated with some intending humour (Report) Reply

  • Sylvia Frances Chan (9/4/2018 3:22:00 PM)


    Congratulations on being chosen as Modern Poem Of The Day.
    I like drama in a poem with a tad of humour, this is awfully fascinatingly written. A 10+++++++++ for the rating and voting. A real enjoyable read, thank you for sharing. GBU in abundance.
    (Report) Reply

  • Petals Azureblue (9/4/2018 8:54:00 AM)


    A look a something serious presented tinted with some humour. Enjoyable read.


    But if something does flash before your eyes
    as you go under, it will probably be a fish,
    (Report) Reply

  • Adrian Flett (9/4/2018 4:44:00 AM)


    The first stanza traps and crushes in 'the vice of your desperate final seconds' all; setting up the humour that follows and flows from the leisurely look at other ways of seeing the end of it all. And then the slivery flash of, 'it will probably be a fish.' (Report) Reply

  • Bernard F. Asuncion (9/4/2018 1:02:00 AM)


    Such a great poem by Billy Collins.................... (Report) Reply

  • Mahtab Bangalee (9/4/2018 12:42:00 AM)


    wonderful writing-

    Survivors would have us believe in a brilliance
    here, some bolt of truth forking across the water,

    ////
    art
    dives into the depth of the pacific
    pacification of mind snatches some pearl for that art
    survivors keep the artist alive in art of peace
    none never let them drown.................
    (Report) Reply

  • (2/20/2018 3:15:00 PM)


    I have almost drowned FIVE times....
    This poem seems to forbode the actual
    DROWN.
    (Report) Reply

  • (12/15/2017 12:36:00 PM)


    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. (Report) Reply

    (2/9/2018 6:52:00 AM)

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

  • (11/30/2016 2:38:00 AM)


    I almost drowned once, and all I saw was that quick blur of curved silver! And the life-saving water ski belt that I never wore again. Too bad that I hadn't come across this poem at that time. I would've had it framed with the belt and sent it to this very funny guy! (Report) Reply

  • Susan Williams (4/28/2016 5:46:00 PM)


    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. (Report) Reply

  • Kim Barney (4/28/2016 11:22:00 AM)


    Artfully done and full of humor. Collins is at his best here. (Report) Reply

  • (4/28/2016 10:59:00 AM)


    ............beautiful imagery ★
    a quick blur of curved silver darting away,
    (Report) Reply

  • Barry Middleton (4/28/2016 7:08:00 AM)


    Always loved the wit, wisdom and humor of billy Collins' work. (Report) Reply

  • (4/28/2016 6:34:00 AM)


    A beautifully envisioned poem crafted with great expertise. Thanks for sharing it here. (Report) Reply

  • (4/28/2016 1:50:00 AM)


    Cleverly penned and gleaming with humor.

    '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.'

    Hilarious, thank you for sharing....10
    (Report) Reply

  • Edward Kofi Louis (4/28/2016 1:42:00 AM)


    Your whole existence going off in your face! Thanks for sharing this poem with us. (Report) Reply

Read all 20 comments »




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Read poems about / on: travel, fish, believe, silver, truth, water, hope, death, life, light, fishing



Poem Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003



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