The Wires of the Night

By Billy Collins b. 1941 Billy Collins
I thought about his death for so many hours,
tangled there in the wires of the night,
that it came to have a body and dimensions,
more than a voice shaking over the telephone
or the black obituary boldface of name and dates.

His death now had an entrance and an exit,
   doors and stairs,
windows and shutters which are the motionless wings
of windows. His death had a head and clothes,
the white shirt and baggy trousers of death.

His death had pages, a dark leather cover, an index,
and the print was too minuscule for anyone to read.
His death had hinges and bolts that were oiled
   and locked,
had a loud motor, four tires, an antenna that listened
to the wind, and a mirror in which you could see the past.

His death had sockets and keys, it had walls and beams.
It had a handle which you could not hold and a floor
you could not lie down on in the middle of the night.

In the freakish pink and gray of dawn I took
his death to bed with me and his death was my bed
and in every corner of the room it hid from the light,

and then it was the light of day and the next day
and all the days to follow, and it moved into the future
like the sharp tip of a pen moving across an empty page.

Billy Collins, “The Wires of the Night” from Questions About Angels. Copyright © 1991 by Billy Collins. All rights are controlled by the University of Pittsburgh Press. Reprinted with the permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press,

Source: Questions About Angels (1991)

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Poet Billy Collins b. 1941

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Subjects Death

Poetic Terms Metaphor

 Billy  Collins


Dubbed “the most popular poet in America” by Bruce Weber in the New York Times, Billy Collins is famous for conversational, witty poems that welcome readers with humor but often slip into quirky, tender or profound observation on the everyday, reading and writing, and poetry itself. John Updike praised Collins for writing “lovely poems...Limpid, gently and consistently startling, more serious than they seem, they describe all . . .

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POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Poetic Terms Metaphor

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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