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Ode to Joy

The Atlantic logo The Atlantic 10/10/2021 Billy Collins
© Gabriela Pesqueira / The Atlantic

Friedrich Schiller called Joy the spark of divinity

but she visits me on a regular basis,

and it doesn’t take much for her to appear—

the salt next to the pepper by the stove,

the garbage man ascending his station

on the back of the moving garbage truck,

or I’m just eating a banana

in the car and listening to Buddy Guy.

In other words, she seems down-to-earth,

like a girl getting off a bus with a suitcase

and no one’s there to meet her.

It’s a little after four in the afternoon,

one of the first warm days of spring.

She sits on her suitcase to wait

and slides on her sunglasses.

How do I know she’s listening to the birds?

This article appears in the November 2021 print edition. When you buy a book using a link on this page, we receive a commission. Thank you for supporting The Atlantic.


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