4/26/22 Workshop – A Poem by Billy Collins

The Next Poem – Billy Collins

Whenever the question comes up,
the poets all say the same thing:
the only poem we’re interested in is the next poem,
the one not written, the poem of tomorrow.

It’s a perfect answer,
which conjures up a bit of hope
and manages to place on the higher tray
of the scale of pride a gram of modesty.

But the problem is
as soon as you start to write it,
the next poem no longer is the next poem,
rather just another poem you are writing,
and the next poem has become
an imaginary mushroom waiting
in the future in a dark forest of pine needles.

And that is probably why I have lost interest
In this poem, in where it is going
or how it will manage to find a way to end.

It could droop into a reverie,
maybe shift to the doctor’s waiting room
where I am entering it into a notebook,
or circle back to that mushroom for all I care.

All I care about is the next poem,
not this current one,
which might even turn out to be my last—

the last orange on my miniature tree,
a shroud pulled over my baby grand,
the ultimate chirp of my canary,
or, how about this?
the final striped umbrella on the vacant beach of my soul?

Free writing prompt:
Write about the next time

One thought on “4/26/22 Workshop – A Poem by Billy Collins

  1. Anita Lim

    The next time

    The next time, what does it really mean?
    Just a way of skirting around the issue
    Putting off what I need to do but don’t want to!

    Avoiding giving of myself to you
    Opening up and sharing my failure.
    To listen and care
    For you, when I am weighed down
    And not good enough.

    Well, if it’s something happy or surprising,
    Will I say, the next time?
    Ha! Where does time go,
    That I have to protect it?
    Saving what has slipped through my fingers

    Help me be present
    And just be in the moment
    Fleeting though it is,
    As there may not be
    A next time.

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