The sky began to tilt,
a shift of light toward the higher clouds,
so I seized my brush
and dipped my little cup in the stream,
but once I streaked the paper gray
with a hint of green,
water began to slide down the page,
rivulets looking for a river.
And again, I was too late -
then the sky made another turn,
this time as if to face a mirror
held in the outstretched arm of a god.
Billy Collins is likely my favorite contemporary poet, and this poem is a good example of why that is. In it, a painted tries to capture a moment in time with his painting. The paint streaks, and he looks up to discover that he is no longer painting the same sky. It's a beautiful image, and where he couldn't capture the sunset in painting, Collins gives it to us on the page, and now in your mind's eye you envision that one moment of the sky you wish you could save forever.