National Poetry Month Selection: "Christmas Sparrow" by Billy Collins

Bright Wings

April is National Poetry Month, and over the next couple weeks we will be posting poems from our poetry titles and from those of our distributed presses. Our selection today is taken from Bright Wings: An Illustrated Anthology of Poems About Birds, edited by Billy Collins. “Christmas Sparrow” is a poem written by Collins himself.

Christmas Sparrow

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.

3 Responses

  1. Mr. Billy Collins, I recently discovered your poetry and ever since, Sir, I am your humble admirer. You see, I used to think that the classics had the last word in Art and in this 3rd millennium everything else it is simply a kitsch. I tried hard to find a contemporary POET, I joined forums of poetry, I suffered all kind of trials torturing my mind and soul by reading cheap productions willingly, searching for that “something” that would make me shiver again after reading Emily Dickinson. I really and utterly believed that one blessed day I may find what I am searching for. And I met YOU, Sir. I read one of your poems and I was lured:it was about Emily Dickinson. I live in Finland and I must say that your work it is not very popular in Europe (maybe around the academics, yes). I wish I could spread the word: “Poetry does exist still!” so, I “stole” a few poems of yours and posted them on my humble website. People read websites, my students do and they are adults (I am a teacher for immigrants). So, maybe in this way I may bring your poems to Europe.
    With all due respect and eternal gratitude,
    Maria Magdalena

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