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Boy Shooting at a Statue

It was late afternoon,
the beginning of winter, a light snow,
and I was the only one in the small park

to witness the lone boy running
in circles around the base of a bronze statue.
I could not read the carved name

of the statesman who loomed above,
one hand on his cold hip,
but as the boy ran, head down,

he would point a finger at the statue
and pull an imaginary trigger
imitating the sounds of rapid gunfire.

Evening thickened, the mercury sank,
but the boy kept running in the circle
of his footprints in the snow

shooting blindly into the air.
History will never find a way to end,
I thought, as I left the park by the north gate

and walked slowly home
returning to the station of my desk
where the sheets of paper I wrote on

were like pieces of glass
through which I could see
hundreds of dark birds circling in the sky below.


From Billy Collins‘ 2005 collection, The Trouble with Poetry.  Billy Collins is among America’s most highly-regarded and popular poets; also a teacher, editor.  His writing is intimate and accessible, whimsical and intelligent, deeply felt.  One reviewer aptly uses the word “limpid” to describe it. Perhaps it is this unclouded quality of the verse which allows the reader to gaze through its very body as through the water of a clean, still lake, and glimpse the bottom, the particular substrate which gives this body of water its substance, character and meaning, its place and function in the ecosystem.

Collins has served as US Poet Laureate and New York State Poet Laureate, among many other recognitions and honours. In 2012 he became Poetry Consultant for Smithsonian Magazine.