Photograph by Rohit Seth/Hemera.
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.
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.