local_library Lake Shore

by Billy Collins

Published in Issue No. 40 ~ September, 2000

It is not easy to admit this on paper,
but the surface of the lake
is flashing very much like diamonds,

and I would never say the wind is whispering
but it is doing
something very close to that.

How many times have scenes
like this one been written down
into your notebook or my notebook –

the sky, the stirring breeze,
even the pairs of swans
paddling in circles in the leafy coves?

But look up into this tree
at this freshly-made hole
big enough for a forearm,

a place where a woodpecker
must have worked for hours,
maybe all day,

gripping the rough bark,
his wings tucked in,
eyes beady with determination,

his red helmet on,
and his metal lunch pail
hanging from a nearby branch.

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In 2001, Collins was named U.S. Poet Laureate. His other honors and awards include fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Guggenheim Foundation.