The Parade

How exhilarating it was to march
along the great boulevards
in the sunflash of trumpets
and under all the waving flags—
the flag of ambition, the flag of love.

So many of us streaming along—
all of humanity, really—
moving in perfect step,
yet each lost in the room of a private dream.

How stimulating the scenery of the world,
the rows of roadside trees,
the huge curtain of the sky.

How endless it seemed until we veered
off the broad turnpike
into a pasture of high grass,
headed toward the dizzying cliffs of mortality.

Generation after generation,
we keep shouldering forward
until we step off the lip into space.

And I should not have to remind you
that little time is given here
to rest on a wayside bench,
to stop and bend to the wildflowers,
or to study a bird on a branch—

not when the young
are always shoving from behind,
not when the old keep tugging us forward,
pulling on our arms with all their feeble strength.

More Poems by Billy Collins