If You See Something

By Billy Collins

Featured Art: Dove in Flight by Pablo Picasso

On my morning walk along a cinder path
that follows the shore of a lake,
I saw a good-size, solitary rabbit,

seven mourning doves who rose to the top of a fence
at my approach,

two anhingas, one drying his extended wings
like a pope on a balcony,
the other not doing anything at all,

also, a loud bird who refused to identify himself,

then ten young ducks in a huddle
by the vegetation near the water,
some sleeping, others preening their feathers,
all not quite old enough to be on their own,

oh, and a squirrel who headed up a tree
when he heard me coming down the path.

It was enough to make me feel like
one of those nineteenth-century naturalists
who would poke around in a faraway continent
with a notebook and a pair of field glasses,

then read a paper about his observations
at the Royal Geographical Society back in London
to robust applause and gin drinks afterward.

The difference being that my little inventory
would be of no interest to that society or any society
in this century or any imaginable century
but that is their fault, the members of these societies, not mine.

I did see some humans on my walk,
a man and a woman busy at their easels painting the lake,
a young fellow having his picture taken with the lake in the background
and a female lifeguard up on a stand high above the lake,

but nothing that Humanitas
or The Journal of American Sociology would care to hear about.

And that leaves me with no choice
but to send this off with a stamped self-addressed envelope
to Pipsqueak, The Dead End Review, and Modern Jackass,
all of which happen to be fine with multiple submissions.

I mean, no one I actually know would bother to listen,
and let’s face it—
I can’t be expected to keep all this to myself.

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

Originally published in NOR 15

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