Christmas Sparrow, by Billy Collins

Tsuchiya Koitsu, Suijin woods in the snow along the Sumida River, Tokyo
Tsuchiya Koitsu, Suijin woods in the snow along the Sumida River, Tokyo

The first thing I heard this morning, was a rapid, flapping sound, soft, insistent…
wings against glass (as it turned out) downstairs,
where I saw a small bird
rioting in the frame of a high window
trying to hurl itself through
the enigma of glass into the spacious light.

Then a noise in the throat of the cat,
who was hunkered on the rug,
told me how the bird had gotten inside,
carried in on the cold night
through the flap of the basement door,
and later released from the soft grip of teeth.
On a chair, I trapped its pulsations in a shirt
and got it to the door,
so weightless it seemed to have vanished
into the nest of cloth

But outside, when I uncupped my hands
it burst into its elements
dipping over the dormant garden
in a spasm of wingbeats
then disappeared over a row of tall hemlocks.

For the rest of the day I could feel its wild thrumming against my palms
as I wondered about the hours it must have spent
pent in the shadows of that room,
hidden in the spikey branches of our decorated tree, breathing there
among the metallic angels, ceramic apples, stars of yarn,
its eyes wide open, like mine as I lie in bed tonight
picturing this rare and lucky sparrow
tucked in a holly bush now
a light snow tumbling through the windless dark.

Billy Collins

(Every year, my wife and I send out Christmas cards along with a story or a poem tucked carefully inside to our close friends and family. We chose this amazing poem by Billy Collins this year and I wish to share it with all of you. Thanks for reading and I wish you all a marvellously magical holiday.

I also have to thank Steven at his wonderful blog, The Golden Fish for introducing me to the wonderful work of Tsuchiya Koitsu.


Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.

December 23, 2009 at 5:05 pm

well this is simply beautiful!!! the words and image dance side-by-side. a happy christmas luke steven

December 23, 2009 at 5:40 pm

Thank you, Luke! I love Billy Collins and this is not one I’d read yet. Warm wishes to you and your family from me and mine!


December 27, 2009 at 8:57 pm

I love this poem. It is beautiful. I will probably steal it from you. Merry Christmas.

Wordle 34 « The Sunday Whirlreply
December 11, 2011 at 1:50 am

[…] say over at We Write Poems, more participants make richer soup. This week’s words come from  Christmas Sparrow, by Billy […]

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