Poem 6:Japan

This week's poem is written by Billy Collins, following a recommendation that I read some his poetry (thank you!). I must say, after reading many of his poems aloud to myself over the last few days, I am already a fan. It appears that he is a very popular poet in America, having been their poet laureate, as well as poet laureate for New York, and was even asked to compose a poem to be read at the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks (this poem is entitled The Names, if you are interested). His poems seem to take quite ordinary, familiar situations and shine a light on them in a very delicate way that makes you look at them afresh. He tends to use short phrases and verses, and I found the ones I have read so far especially delightful to read aloud.
The title of the poem I have chosen caught my eye as I am soon to be very closely connected with Japan, but it was the poem itself which confirmed its place as this week's choice. I hope you enjoy this week's offering.

Billy Collins

Today I pass the time reading
a favorite haiku,
saying the few words over and over.

It feels like eating
the same small, perfect grape
again and again.

I walk through the house reciting it
and leave its letters falling
through the air of every room.

I stand by the big silence of the piano and say it.
I say it in front of a painting of the sea.
I tap out its rhythm on an empty shelf.

I listen to myself saying it,
then I say it without listening,
then I hear it without saying it.

And when the dog looks up at me,
I kneel down on the floor
and whisper it into each of his long white ears.

It's the one about the one-ton temple bell
with the moth sleeping on its surface,

and every time I say it, I feel the excruciating
pressure of the moth
on the surface of the iron bell.

When I say it at the window,
the bell is the world
and I am the moth resting there.

When I say it at the mirror,
I am the heavy bell
and the moth is life with its papery wings.
And later, when I say it to you in the dark,
you are the bell,
and I am the tongue of the bell, ringing you,

and the moth has flown
from its line
and moves like a hinge in the air above our bed.


  1. Thank you! I'm a Billy Collins fan as well. I love the idea of the poet kneeling down and whispering the haiku into each of the dog's long white ears


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