“Foundling” by Billy Collins



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A weekly poem, read by the author.
April 24 2012 6:00 AM


little boy staring at the snow

Photograph by Rohit Seth/Hemera.

Click the arrow on the audio player to hear Billy Collins read this poem. You can also download the recording or subscribe to Slate's Poetry Podcast on iTunes.

How unusual to be living a life of continual self-expression,
jotting down little things,
noticing a leaf being carried down a stream,
then wondering what will become of me,

and finally to work alone under a lamp
as if everything depended on this,
groping blindly down a page,
like someone lost in a forest.


And to think it all began one night
on the steps of a nunnery
where I lay gazing up from a sewing basket,
which was doubling for a proper baby carrier,

staring into the turbulent winter sky,
too young to wonder about anything
including my recent abandonment—
but it was there that I committed

my first act of self-expression,
sticking out my infant tongue
and receiving in return (I can see it now)
a large, pristine snowflake much like any other.

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Billy Collins's ninth collection of poems, Horoscopes for the Dead, will be published in March.  He is a distinguished professor of English at Lehman College (CUNY) and a distinguished fellow of the Winter Park Institute of Rollins College.