“Digging” by Billy Collins

It seems whenever I dig in the woods
on the slope behind this house
I unearth some object from the past—
a shard of crockery or a bottle with its stopper missing,

sometimes a piece of metal, maybe handled
by the dairy farmer who built this house
over a century and a half ago
as civil war waged unabated to the south.

So it’s never a surprise
when the shovel-tip hits a rusted bolt,
or a glass knob from a drawer—
little hands waving from the past.

And today, it’s a buried toy,
a little car with a dent in the roof
and enough flecks of paint to tell it was blue.
Shrouded in a towel, the body of our cat

lies nearby on the ground where I settled her
in the mottled light of the summer trees,
and I still have to widen the hole
and deepen it for her by at least another foot,

but not before I stop for a moment
with the once-blue car idling in my palm,
to imagine the boy who grew up here
and to see that two of the crusted wheels still spin.


“Searching” by Billy Collins

I recall someone once admitting
that all he remembered of Anna Karenina
was something about a picnic basket,

and now, after consuming a book
devoted to the subject of Barcelona--
its people, its history, its complex architecture--

all I remember is the mention
of an albino gorilla, the inhabitant of a park
where the Citadel of the Bourbons once stood.

The sheer paleness of him looms over
all the notable names and dates
as the evening strollers stop before him

and point to show their children.
These locals called him Snowflake,
and here he has been mentioned again in print

in the hope of keeping his pallid flame alive
and helping him, despite his name, to endure
in this poem, where he has found another cage.

Oh, Snowflake,
I had no interest in the capital of Catalonia--
its people, its history, its complex architecture--

no, you were the reason
I kept my light on late into the night,
turning all those pages, searching for you everywhere.