Two Poems

Billy Collins

Lakeside

As optical illusions go
it was one of the more spectacular,
a little group of bright stars
appearing to move along the night sky
as if on a secret mission

while, of course, it was the low clouds
that were doing the moving,
scattered over my head by a wind from the east.
And as hard as I looked
I could not get the stars to budge again.

It was like the curious figure
of the duck/rabbit –
even paradoxical Wittgenstein
could not find his way back to the rabbit
once he had beheld the bill of the duck.

But which was which?
Were the stars the rabbit
and the blown clouds the duck?
or the other way around?
You’re being ridiculous,

I said to myself,
on the walk back to the house
but then the correct answer struck me
not like a bolt of lightning,
but more like a heavy bolt of cloth.

The Guest

I know the reason you placed nine white tulips
in a glass vase with water
here in this room a few days ago
was not in order to mark the passage of time
as a fish would if nailed by the tail
to the wall above the bed of a house guest.

But early this morning I did notice
their heads were lowered
in the grey light,
two of them even touching the glass top
of the table near the window,
the blossoms falling open

as they lost their grip on themselves,
and my suitcase only half unpacked by the door.