Billy Collins

(22 March 1941 - / New York City)

The First Night - Poem by Billy Collins

Before I opened you, Jiménez,
it never occurred to me that day and night
would continue to circle each other in the ring of death,

but now you have me wondering
if there will also be a sun and a moon
and will the dead gather to watch them rise and set

then repair, each soul alone,
to some ghastly equivalent of a bed.
Or will the first night be the only night,

a darkness for which we have no other name?
How feeble our vocabulary in the face of death,
How impossible to write it down.

This is where language will stop,
the horse we have ridden all our lives
rearing up at the edge of a dizzying cliff.

The word that was in the beginning
and the word that was made flesh—
those and all the other words will cease.

Even now, reading you on this trellised porch,
how can I describe a sun that will shine after death?
But it is enough to frighten me

into paying more attention to the world's day-moon,
to sunlight bright on water
or fragmented in a grove of trees,

and to look more closely here at these small leaves,
these sentinel thorns,
whose employment it is to guard the rose.

Topic(s) of this poem: night

Comments about The First Night by Billy Collins

  • Madhuram Sharma (5/26/2017 5:16:00 AM)

    wonderful poem.................... (Report) Reply

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  • Kelly Kurt (4/8/2015 1:57:00 PM)

    Your place in the top 500 is well deserved, sir. Thank you for sharin.
    (Report) Reply

  • (4/8/2015 7:20:00 AM)

    Glad he's getting serious, finally. Who's Jimenez? Some Spanish poet known only to Collins? (Report) Reply

  • Akhtar Jawad (4/8/2015 6:42:00 AM)

    Wonderful, amazing, beautiful.............................10 (Report) Reply

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Poem Submitted: Wednesday, April 8, 2015

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