“You, Reader” by Billy Collins

Still life with Apples and Pears by Paul Cézanne at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

I wonder how you are going to feel
when you find out
that I wrote this instead of you,

that it was I who got up early
to sit in the kitchen
and mention with a pen

the rain-soaked windows,
the ivy wallpaper,
and the goldfish circling in its bowl.

Go ahead and turn aside,
bite your lip and tear out the page,
but, listen– it was just a matter of time

before one of us happened
to notice the unlit candles
and the clock humming on the wall.

Plus, nothing happened that morning–
a song on the radio,
a car whistling along the road outside–

and I was only thinking
about the shakers of salt and pepper
that were standing side by side on a place mat.

I wondered if they had become friends
after all these years
or if they were still strangers to one another

like you and I
who manage to be known and unknown
to each other at the same time–

me at this table with a bowl of pears,
you leaning in a doorway somewhere
near some blue hydrangeas, reading this.


“You, Reader,” by Billy Collins from The Trouble with Poetry (Random House)


3 thoughts on ““You, Reader” by Billy Collins

    1. Oh good, Barbara! I know you desperately need smiles. Been thinking of you so much this week. Health issues have limited my computer time, so I haven’t been able to reply to comments yet, but wanted to send my love to you and husband. Please let know if I or readers can do anything to help… are you writing through your caregiving? I’d be pleased to share some more of your work… “Cherries” remains one of my favorite poems. Just let me know at your convenience… and I hope to reply to your comments (and others’) very soon. Much Love, christy

      Sent from my iPhone


      Liked by 1 person

  1. This one conjures visuals for me, too.
    In fact, it may have been one that I searched to find a photo for.
    Lots of “space” in between these people (lovers, friends, siblings?) ..loved it.


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