A Poem by Billy Collins on His Birthday

Billy Collins was born on March 22, 1941, dubbed “the most popular poet in America” by Bruce Weber in the New York Times, was a two-term U.S. Poet Laureate (2001-2003), and has published many poetry collections, including Questions About Angels; The Art of Drowning; and Nine Horses: Poems. It was Questions About Angels, published in 1991, that put him in the literary spotlight.  Collins says his poetry is “suburban, it’s domestic, it’s middle class, and it’s sort of unashamedly that.”

To read his poem “Boyhood” click:


by Billy Collins

Alone in the basement,
I would sometimes lower one eye
to the level of the narrow track of the model train

to watch the puffing locomotive
pull the cars around a curve
then bear down on me with its dazzling eye.

What was in those moments
before I lifted my head and let the train
go rocking by under my nose?

I remember not caring much
about the fake grass or the buildings
that made up the miniature town.

The same went for the station and its master,
the crossing gates and flashing lights,
the milk car, the pencil-size logs,

the metallic men and women,
the dangling water tower,
and the round mirror for a pond

All I wanted was to be blinded
over and over by this shaking light
as the train stuck fast to its oval course.

Or better still, to close my eyes,
to stay there on the cold narrow rails
and let the train tunnel through me

the way it tunneled through the mountain
that was painted the color of rock,
and then there would be nothing

but the long whistling through the dark
no basement, no boy,
no everlasting summer afternoon.

“Boyhood” © by Billy Collins appeared in the November 2004 issue of Poetry magazine

About wordcloud9

Nona Blyth Cloud has lived and worked in the Los Angeles area for over 50 years, spending much of that time commuting on the 405 Freeway. After Hollywood failed to appreciate her genius for acting and directing, she began a second career managing non-profits, from which she has retired. Nona has now resumed writing whatever comes into her head, instead of reports and pleas for funding. She lives in a small house overrun by books with her wonderful husband.
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