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Nine Horses: Poems by Billy Collins


Rating: (Recommended)


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If you haven’t read any of the poems of our current poet laureate, Billy Collins, you may as well start with his latest collection, Nine Horses. Collins is a writer for our time, and captures humor and sadness with equal skill.

Here’s a sample, the title poem:

Nine Horses


For my birthday,

my wife gave me nine horse heads,

ghostly photographs on squares of black marble,

nine squares set in one large square,

a thing so heavy that the artist himself

volunteered to hang it

from a wood beam against a white stone wall.


Pale heads of horses in profile

as if a flashcube had caught them walking in the night


Pale horse heads

that overlook my reading chair,

the eyes so hollow they must be weeping,


the mouths so agape they could be dead—

the photographer standing over them

on a floor of straw, his black car parked by the stable door.


Nine white horses,

or one horse the camera has multiplied by nine.



If hardly matters, such sadness is gathered here

in their long white faces

so far from the pasture and the cube of sugar—

the face of St. Bartholomew, the face of St. Agnes.


Odd team of horses,

pulling nothing,

look down on these daily proceedings.


Look down upon this table and these glasses,

the furled napkins,

the evening wedding of the knife and fork.


Look down like a nine-headed god

and give us a sign of your displeasure

or your gentle forbearance

so that we may rejoice in the error of our ways.


Look down on this ring

of candles flickering under your pale heads.


Let your suffering eyes

and your anonymous deaths

be the bridle that keeps us from straying from each other


be the cinch that fastens us to the belly of each day

as it gallops away, hooves sparking into the night.

Treat yourself to many pleasurable moments as you enjoy the poems of Billy Collins in Nine Horses.

Steve Hopkins, January 1, 2003


ã 2003 Hopkins and Company, LLC


The recommendation rating for this book appeared in the February 2003 issue of Executive Times


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