National Poetry Month: Billy Collins

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April is National Poetry Month. Every Monday in April Unbound will celebrate National Poetry month by publishing a poem by a nationally recognized poet that speaks in one way or another to what we are all facing in this time of pandemic. 

In the first column, I shared my background and experience with poetry. I don’t need to do that again. As I share these poems, I remember what I learned many years ago in my first poetry class as an undergraduate: a good poem should, usually, be able to speak for itself and does not elaborate introduction before being read. In light of that wisdom I will keep my introductions brief.

The third selection in this series is by Billy Collins. Billy Collins has received numerous awards and was appointed Poet Laureate for the United States 2001-2002. The poem “Days” celebrates the fragility and preciousness of life, of each day. On occasion, I’ve used the first verse of this poem in worship as part of the “Call to Worship”. You may want to check out these other poems by Billy Collins: “On Turning Ten”, “Nostalgia”, “Sunday Morning with the Sensational Nightingales” and “The Blues”. Thank you to University Pittsburgh Press for their generosity in allowing us to reproduce this poem.

Days by Billy Collins

Each one is a gift, no doubt,  
mysteriously placed in your waking hand  
or set upon your forehead  
moments before you open your eyes. 

Today begins cold and bright,  
the ground heavy with snow  
and the thick masonry of ice,  
the sun glinting off the turrets of clouds. 

Through the calm eye of the window  
everything is in its place  
but so precariously  
this day might be resting somehow 

on the one before it,  
all the days of the past stacked high  
like the impossible tower of dishes  
entertainers used to build on stage. 

No wonder you find yourself  
perched on the top of a tall ladder  
hoping to add one more.  
Just another Wednesday 

you whisper,  
then holding your breath,  
place this cup on yesterday’s saucer  
without the slightest clink.

“Days” from The Art of Drowning by Billy Collins, © 1995. All rights controlled by the University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh PA 15260. Used by permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press.


Rev. Dave Brown is the creator/host of BLUES VESPERS, one of the PNW Interfaith Amigos and a member of the PCUSA Public Education Roundtable. Rev. Brown is the former pastor of Immanuel Presbyterian Church in Tacoma. 

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