Sometimes, a poem stops you, makes you say “Yes!” out loud to nobody but yourself because something is so clear you should have known it all along, but hiding in front of you all along. I had one of those moments when I opened Billy Collins’ Horoscopes for the Dead to a random page and read “Vocation” last night.


Even if (especially if) you don’t like poetry, I strongly encourage you to dig into Mr. Collins’ work. It’s accessible, witty, profound, and beautiful in its simplicity.

As I watched the night sky
from the wooden dock
I had painted gray earlier that day

I saw an airplane fly,
its red port-light blinking all the while,
right through the Big Dipper

nearly clipping one of the stars
of that constellation,
which was tilted upside-down at the time

and seemed to be pouring whatever it held
into space one big dipperful at a time.

And that was when I discovered
poised right above me
a hitherto unknown constellation

composed of six stars,
two for the snout and the four behind
for the pig’s trotters

though it would have taken some time
to make anyone see that.

But since there was no one there
lying next to me,
my constellation of the Pig
remained a secret

and a bright reminder,
after many jumbled days and nights,
of my true vocation—

keeping an eye on things
whether they existed or not,
recumbent under the random stars.

~ Billy Collins, Vocation (from Horoscopes for the Dead, 2011)

Advertisements