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Date(s) - 12/06/2018 - 12/12/2018
All Day

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Winter Sparrow

by Billy Collins

The first thing I heard this morning

was a soft, insistent rustle,

the rapid flapping of wings

against glass as it turned out,

a small bird rioting

in the frame of a high window,

trying to hurl itself through

the enigma of transparency into the spacious light.

A noise in the throat of the cat

hunkered on the rug

told me how the bird had gotten inside,

carried in the cold night

through the flap in a basement door,

and later released from the soft clench of teeth.

Up on a chair, I trapped its pulsations

in a small towel and carried it to the door,

so weightless it seemed

to have vanished into the nest of cloth.

But outside, it burst

from my uncupped hands into its element,

dipping over the dormant garden

in a spasm of wingbeats

and disappearing over a tall row of hemlocks.

Still, for the rest of the day,

I could feel its wild thrumming

against my palms whenever I thought

about the hours the bird must have spent

pent in the shadows of that room,

hidden in the spiky branches

of our decorated tree, breathing there

among metallic angels, ceramic apples, stars of yarn,

its eyes open, like mine as I lie here tonight

picturing this rare, lucky sparrow

tucked into a holly bush now,

a light snow tumbling through the windless dark.

Billy Collins (b. 1941) was dubbed “the most popular poet in America” by Bruce Weber in the New York Times. He is famous for conversational, witty poems that welcome readers with humor but often slip into quirky, tender or profound observation on the everyday, reading and writing, and poetry itself. Collins’s level of fame is almost unprecedented in the world of contemporary poetry; his public readings regularly sell out. He served two terms as the US Poet Laureate, from 2001-2003, was New York State Poet Laureate from 2004-2006, and is a regular guest on National Public Radio programs.