The Suggestion Box

By Billy Collins

Featured Image: “Cupid Inspiring Plants with Love from The Temple of Flora” by Robert John Thornton

It all began fairly early in the day
at the coffee shop as it turned out
when the usual waitress said
I’ll bet you’re going to write a poem about this
after she had knocked a cup of coffee into my lap.

Then later in the morning I was told
by a student that I should write a poem
about the fire drill that was going on
as we all stood on the lawn outside our building.

In the afternoon a woman I barely knew
said you could write a poem about that,
pointing to a dirigible that was passing overhead.

And if all that were not enough,
a friend turned to me as we walked past
a man whose face was covered with tattoos
and said, I see poem coming!

Why is everyone being so helpful?
I wondered that evening by the shore of a lake.

Maybe I should write a poem
about all the people who think
they know what I should be writing poems about.

It was just then in the fading light that I spotted
a pair of ducks emerging
from a cluster of reeds to paddle out to open water,

the female glancing back over her russet shoulder
just in time to see me searching my pockets for a pen.

I knew it, she quacked, with a bit of a brogue.
But who can blame you for following your heart?
she went on.
Now, go write a lovely poem about me and the mister.


Billy Collins’s latest collection is Whale Day (Random House, 2020). He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Originally appeared in NOR 11.

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