Poem by Billy Collins

The Tyrrhenian Sea was bouncing off to the right

as we headed south down the coast, 

and to the left rose the Apennine mountains,

some with their faces quarried away,

from where heavy blocks of white marble

had been cut and carried down

and stacked in rows in yards along the highway.


Is anyone hiding within? I wondered,

as we passed a little Fiat

and were passed in turn by a green Lamborghini,

hiding the way Pinocchio hid inside a log—

maybe a David who goes by another name,

or an anonymous girl caught dancing,

or any other figure encased and yet to be revealed.


Are you in there, Dawn with your sunburst halo,

concealed from the freshly sharpened chisel?

How about you, Spirit of Revolution

waving a flag of marble

and crushing the serpent of Tyranny with one foot?

Or is nobody home, no one barely breathing

in the heavy darkness of the pure white stone?


Soon, we were standing on a wide beach

where the body of Shelley had floated ashore,

and where all those questions washed away—

though later I pictured a sculptor wandering

among the blocks, hands clasped behind his back,

then deciding it was time to get to work

on a towering likeness of his favorite English poet.


American Arts Quarterly, Winter 2013, Volume 30, Number 1