Billy Collins: "Bar Time"

by Kim on April 15, 2009 · 15 comments

Since 1996, the Academy of American Poets has declared that April is National Poetry Month. In honor of that, I’ll be celebrating poetry every Wednesday in April with a poem by my favorite poet, Billy Collins. So far, I’ve posted “Marginalia” and “On Turning Ten.” Read on for this week’s poem!

As part of the Spring Reading Thing 2009 I decided to read Sailing Alone Around the Room, a 2001 anthology of Billy Collins’ poetry that also includes some new poems. I finally started reading it yesterday and came across the poem “Bar Time” from The Apple That Astonished Paris (1988).

I enjoyed this poem because it takes another look at time, a theme I think comes up in a lot of his poetry. The poem reminds me a lot of “I Go Back to The House for a Book” — one of my favorite poems from Picnic, Lightning — because of the way both look at time as something moving and interpretive rather than static. That’s not really the best description, so why don’t you just go ahead and read the poem :)

Bar Time

by Billy Collins

In keeping with universal saloon practice,
the clock here is set 15 minutes ahead
of all the clocks in the outside world.

This makes us a rather advanced group,
doing our drinking in the unknown future,
immune from the cares of the present,
safely harbored a quarter of an hour
beyond the woes of the contemporary scene.

No wonder such thoughtless pleasure derives
from tending the small fire of a cigarette,
from observing this class of whiskey and ice,
the cold rust I am sipping,

or from having an eye on the street outside
when Ordinary Time slouches past in a topcoat,
rain running off the brim of his hat,
the late edition like a flag in his pocket.

Previous post:

Next post: