Image credit: Sun Forest, Lars Ven de Goor

Image credit: Sun Forest, Lars Ven de Goor


The best time is late afternoon

when the sun strobes through

the columns of trees as you are hiking up,

and when you find an agreeable rock

to sit on, you will be able to see

the light pouring down into the woods

and breaking into the shapes and tones

of things and you will hear nothing

but a sprig of birdsong or the leafy

falling of a cone or nut through the trees,

and if this is your day you might even

spot a hare or feel the wing-beats of geese

driving overhead toward some destination.

But it is hard to speak of these things

how the voices of light enter the body

and begin to recite their stories

how the earth holds us painfully against

its breast made of humus and brambles

how we who will soon be gone regard

the entities that continue to return

greener than ever, spring water flowing

through a meadow and the shadows of clouds

passing over the hills and the ground

where we stand in the tremble of thought

taking the vast outside into ourselves.

Billy Collins, excerpted from The Art of Drowning