Billy Collins




Tipping Point

At home, the jazz station plays all day,
so sometimes it becomes indistinct,
like the sound of rain,
birds in the background, the surf of traffic.

But today I heard a voice announce
that Eric Dolphy, 36 when he died,
has now been dead for 36 years.

I wonder –
did anyone sense something
when another Eric Dolphy lifetime
was added to the span of his life,

when we all took another
full Dolphy step forward in time,
flipped over the Eric Dolphy yardstick once again?

It would have been so subtle –
like the sensation you might feel
as you passed through the moment

at the exact center of your life
or as you crossed the equator at night in a boat.
I never gave it another thought,
but could that have been the little shift
I sensed a while ago
as I walked down in the rain to get the mail?