Grave

More
Also see:

Audio: "Grave"
Billy Collins reads this poem aloud

What do you think of my new glasses
I asked as I stood under a shade tree
before the joined grave of my parents,

and what followed was a long silence
that descended on the rows of the dead
and on the fields and the woods beyond,

one of the one hundred kinds of silence
according to the Chinese belief,
each one distinct from the others,

but the differences being so faint
that only a few special monks
were able to tell one from another.

They make you look very scholarly,
I heard my mother say
once I lay down on the ground

and pressed an ear into the soft grass.
Then I rolled over and pressed
my other ear to the ground,

the ear my father likes to speak into,
but he would say nothing,
and I could not find a silence

among the one hundred Chinese silences
that would fit the one that he created
even though I was the one

who had just made up the business
of the one hundred Chinese silences—
the Silence of the Night Boat,

and the Silence of the Lotus,
cousin to the Silence of the Temple Bell
only deeper and softer, like petals, at its farthest edges.

Billy Collins’s most recent collection is Ballistics (2008). He served as the U.S. poet laureate from 2001 to 2003.
Jump to comments
Presented by

Billy Collins's new collection, Horoscopes for the Dead, will be published early next year. He served as the U.S. poet laureate from 2001 to 2003.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

A Technicolor Time-Lapse of Alaska's Northern Lights

The beauty of aurora borealis, as seen from America's last frontier


Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

A Time-Lapse of Alaska's Northern Lights

The beauty of aurora borealis, as seen from America's last frontier

Video

What Do You Wish You Learned in College?

Ivy League academics reveal their undergrad regrets

Video

Famous Movies, Reimagined

From Apocalypse Now to The Lord of the Rings, this clever video puts a new spin on Hollywood's greatest hits.

Video

What Is a City?

Cities are like nothing else on Earth.

Video

CrossFit Versus Yoga: Choose a Side

How a workout becomes a social identity

Video

In Online Dating, Everyone's a Little Bit Racist

The co-founder of OKCupid shares findings from his analysis of millions of users' data.

Writers

Up
Down

More in Entertainment

More back issues, Sept 1995 to present.

Just In