Collins, Billy

United States, (b. 1941)


  1. A wolf is reading a book of fairy tales.
  2. The moon hangs over the forest, a lamp.
  3. He is not assuming a human position,
  4. say, cross-legged against a tree,
  5. as he would in a cartoon.
  6. This is a real wolf, standing on all fours,
  7. his rich fur bristling in the night air,
  8. his head bent over the book open on the ground.
  9. He does not sit down for the words
  10. would be too far away to be legible,
  11. and it is with difficulty that he turns
  12. each page with his nose and forepaws.
  13. When he finishes the last tale
  14. he lies down in pine needles.
  15. He thinks about what he has read,
  16. the stories passing over his mind,
  17. like the clouds crossing the moon.
  18. A zigzag of wind shakes down hazelnuts.
  19. The eyes of owls yellow in the branches.
  20. The wolf now paces restlessly in circles
  21. around the book until he is absorbed
  22. by the power of its narration,
  23. making him one of its illustrations,
  24. a small paper wolf, flat as print.
  25. Later that night, lost in a town of pigs,
  26. he knocks over houses with his breath.

© Billy Collins. Questions About Angels. William Morrow & Co., 1991.


  1. Happy only
  2. when he is gardening alone
  3. far from conversation
  4. and the terrible stammering
  5. far from Petunia, nag and tease
  6. just resting on a hoe
  7. unembarrassed
  8. as he contemplates
  9. the blue background of his flat world —
  10. a Zen pig.

© Billy Collins. Pokerface. Kenmore Press, 1977.

About the Poet

Billy Collins (b. 1941), US poet, Distinguished Professor of English at Lehman College, City University of New York, and eleventh Poet Laureate (2001) of the Library of Congress.

Collins was described by fellow poet, Edward Hirsch, as “a metaphysical poet with a funny bone and a sly questioning intelligence… an ironist of the void…”. [DES-6/03]


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