Humor, wit, and sheer elegance are the most distinguishing features of Billy Collins’ poetry. As America’s two-term Poet Laureate and a wordsmith of immense talent and unique voice, he introduced countless people to the art of verse through his books and numerous teaching workshops.
Every poem that comes under his pen shows us that good poetry doesn’t have to be difficult or obscure — a rule evident in his deeply empathetic “Dharma” included in the collection Sailing Alone Around the Room: New and Selected Poems. Read here by Billy Collins himself and masterfully animated by Sophia Li, this uncommonly soulful meditation celebrates our four-legged companions and their intrinsic ability to give meaning to our lives. Please enjoy.
by Billy Collins
The way the dog trots out the front door
without a hat or an umbrella,
without any money
or the keys to her doghouse
never fails to fill the saucer of my heart
with milky admiration.
Who provides a finer example
of a life without encumbrance —
Thoreau in his curtainless hut
with a single plate, a single spoon?
Gandhi with his staff and his holy diapers?
Off she goes into the material world
with nothing but her brown coat
and her modest blue collar,
following only her wet nose,
the twin portals of her steady breathing,
followed only by the plume of her tail.
If only she did not shove the cat aside
and eat all his food
what a model of self-containment she would be,
what a paragon of earthly detachment.
If only she were not so eager
for a rub behind the ears,
so acrobatic in her welcomes,
if only I were not her god.
While Sailing Alone Around the Room and contemplating “Dharma,” don’t forget to revisit the growing collection of deeply stirring poetry readings that include Billy Collins’ “The Lanyard,” Emily Dickinson’s “I Dwell in Possibility,” Pablo Neruda’s “I Like for You to Be Still,” Gregory Orr’s “This is What Was Bequeathed Us,” and Wallace Stevens’ “The Snow Man.”