Posts Tagged ‘Billy Collins’

76. Ordinary mind

It’s winter in Western New York, and this morning our driveway is filled with new-fallen snow. As I look out at that white expanse, I am reminded of a poem by Billy Collins, poet of American domestic life.

Entitled “Shoveling Snow with Buddha,” Collins’ poem depicts two men at work in a snow-filled driveway. One is the narrator, who might be Everyman—or at least every man who owns a home and lives in a northern climate. The other is the Buddha, who, as the narrator observes, is out of his customary habitat:

In the usual iconography of the temple or the local Wok

you would never see him doing such a thing,

tossing the dry snow over the mountain

of his bare, round shoulder,

his hair tied in a knot,

a model of concentration.

– – –

Even the season is wrong for him.

In all his manifestations, is it not warm and slightly humid?

Is this not implied by his serene expression,

that smile so wide it wraps itself around the waist of the universe?

Unlikely workmates, one might say. And though the two are toiling harmoniously together, they appear to have little in common. With every heave of snow, the narrator notes, they become “lost to each other / in these sudden clouds of [their] own making, / these fountain-bursts of snow.”  And even when they are visible to each other, their ways of working set them apart. (more…)

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