Fishing on the Susquehanna in July

By Billy Collins b. 1941 Billy Collins
I have never been fishing on the Susquehanna
or on any river for that matter
to be perfectly honest.

Not in July or any month
have I had the pleasure—if it is a pleasure—
of fishing on the Susquehanna.

I am more likely to be found
in a quiet room like this one—
a painting of a woman on the wall,

a bowl of tangerines on the table—
trying to manufacture the sensation
of fishing on the Susquehanna.

There is little doubt
that others have been fishing
on the Susquehanna,

rowing upstream in a wooden boat,
sliding the oars under the water
then raising them to drip in the light.

But the nearest I have ever come to
fishing on the Susquehanna
was one afternoon in a museum in Philadelphia

when I balanced a little egg of time
in front of a painting
in which that river curled around a bend

under a blue cloud-ruffled sky,
dense trees along the banks,
and a fellow with a red bandanna

sitting in a small, green
flat-bottom boat
holding the thin whip of a pole.

That is something I am unlikely
ever to do, I remember
saying to myself and the person next to me.

Then I blinked and moved on
to other American scenes
of haystacks, water whitening over rocks,

even one of a brown hare
who seemed so wired with alertness
I imagined him springing right out of the frame.

Billy Collins, “Fishing on the Susquehanna in July” from Picnic, Lightning. Copyright © 1998 by Billy Collins. All rights are controlled by the University of Pittsburgh Press. Used by permission of University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, PA 15206.

Source: Picnic Lightning (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1998)

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Poet Billy Collins b. 1941

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Subjects Activities, Sports & Outdoor Activities, Nature, Landscapes & Pastorals, Arts & Sciences, Painting & Sculpture, Animals

Poetic Terms Free Verse, Ekphrasis

 Billy  Collins

Biography

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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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Activities, Sports & Outdoor Activities, Nature, Landscapes & Pastorals, Arts & Sciences, Painting & Sculpture, Animals

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Poetic Terms Free Verse, Ekphrasis

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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