Monday, June 7, 2010

Comeuppance for the bird threat

After making violent threats against the bird that wakes me up each morning with his or her ridiculously chipper song (scroll down for that earlier entry), I opened a book of poetry by Billy Collins called The Trouble with Poetry. This is what I read:


The birds are in their trees,
the toast is in the toaster,
and the poets are at their windows.

They are at their windows 
in every section of the tangerine of earth --
the Chinese poets looking up at the moon,
the American poets gazing out
at the pink and blue ribbons of sunrise.

The clerks are at their desks,
the miners are down in their mines,
and the poets are looking out their windows
maybe with a cigarette, a cup of tea,
and maybe a flannel shirt or bathrobe is involved.

The proofreaders are playing the ping-pong
game of proofreading,
glancing back and forth from page to page,
the chefs are dicing celery and potatoes,
and the poets are at their windows
because it is their job for which
they are paid nothing every Friday afternoon.

Which window it hardly seems to matter
though many have a favorite,
for there is always something to see -
a bird grasping a thin branch,
the headlights of a taxi rounding a corner,
those two boys in wool caps angling across the street.

The fishermen bob in their boats,
the linemen climb their round poles,
the barbers wait by their mirrors and chairs,
and the poets continue to stare
at the cracked birdbath or a limb knocked down by the wind.

By now, it should go without saying
that what the oven is to the baker
and the berry-stained blouse to the dry-cleaner,
so the window is to the poet.

Just think -
before the invention of the window,
the poets would have had to put on a jacket
and a winter hat to go outside
or remain indoors with only a wall to stare at.

And when I say a wall,
I do not mean a wall with striped wallpaper
and a sketch of a cow in a frame.

I mean a cold wall of fieldstones,
the wall of a medieval sonnet,
the original woman's heart of stone,
the stone caught in the throat of her poet-lover.


  1. Yep, I like that poem. If I were quick with a camera I'd show you the birds outside my windows. The hummingbirds that pluck bits of spiderweb off the corners of the window frames to help build their nests, or the hawk gripping a branch on one foot while trying to unwind a rather large gopher snake wrapped round its other leg.

  2. I adore Billy Collins which probably proves what an ass I am or something. I love hearing him on Prairie Home Companion, reading his poems and when I read this one (which I loved) I could hear him speak it.
    Good one, Elizabeth!

  3. The bird post made me laugh,
    we have some serious ongoing chatter and song here the last few years .Be careful what you wish for and all that. Two ducks that do not belong in the neighborhood are putting us over the edge.

    I love Billy Collins.

    and this poem,
    aside from being perfect ,
    just startled me. Is that why I do this window thing?
    Can I tell my family that I am a poet? So they don't think I'm plotting an escape or daydreaming pointlessly?

    The minutes before I came here to this window into blog world, I was watching the elderly woman across the street check her mail and stoop to weed her garden. She lives alone and spends more money and effort on her house and property than I can imagine , but I always wonder what she is thinking about. Does she hear birds?

  4. First of all, I love that poem. Thank you for posting it - I've (of course) never seen it before.
    Second, I totally understand the previous post, but from a dog-perspective: my next-door-neighbor (who is an amazingly talented chef, BTW) has two horribly barky dogs. I should be giving thanks, because she used to have THREE horribly barky dogs, but at midnight when I am trying to sleep, and they are going off like alarms every few minutes, and heaven only knows when she and her husband will come home to quiet them, because they have one of the hottest restaurants in town, I feel a bit like you did about the bird. So thank you for being honest about it.

  5. I'm with you on the 6 AM bird calls. Mine likes to tout his early-birdness around 5 these days, so help me God.

  6. Well. Now I cannot stop giggling: damn that singing!


  7. no wonder I'm agoraphobic AND write poetry :)

    (word verification: commical - and it's misspelled too)



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...