Genius, by Billy Collins



was what they called you in high school

if you tripped on a shoelace in the hall

and all your books went flying.


Or if you walked into an open locker door,

you would be known as Einstein,

who imagined riding a streetcar into infinity.


Later, genius became someone

who could take a sliver of chalk and squire pi

a hundred places out beyond the decimal point,


or a man painting on his back on a scaffold,

or drawing a waterwheel in a margin,

or spinning out a little night music.


But earlier this week on a wooded path,

I thought the swans afloat on the reservoir

were the true geniuses,


the ones who had figured out how to fly,

how to be both beautiful and brutal,

and how to mate for life.


Twenty-four geniuses in all,

for I numbered them as Yeats had done,

deployed upon the calm, crystalline surface—


forty-eight if we count their white reflections,

or an even fifty if you want to throw in me

and the dog running up ahead,


who were at least smart enough to be out

that morning—she sniffing the ground,

me with my head up in the bright morning air.


– Billy Collins


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