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In the Room of a Thousand Miles By Billy Collins

January 16, 2000

I like writing about where I am,

where I happen to be sitting,

the humidity or the clouds,

the scene outside the window--

a pink tree in bloom,

a neighbor walking his small, nervous dog.

And if I am drinking

a cup of tea at the time

or a small glass of whiskey,

I will find a line to put it on.

My wife hands these poems back to me

with a sigh.

She thinks I ought to be opening up

my aperture to let in

the wild rhododendrons of Ireland,

the sun-blanched stadiums of Rome,

that waterclock in Bruges--

the world beyond my inkwell.

I tell her I will try again

and travel back to my desk

where the chair is turned to the window.

I think about the furniture of history.

I consider the globe, the lights of its cities.

I visualize a lion rampant on an iron shield,

a quiet battlefield, a granite monument.

And then--just between you and me--

I take a swallow of cold tea

and in the manner of the ancient Chinese

pick up my thin pen

and write down that bird I hear outside,

the one that sings,

pauses,

then sings again.

From "Picnic, Lightning" by Billy Collins (University of Pittsburgh Press: 104 pp., $12.95 paper)

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