Published on Academy of American Poets (

Birds Appearing in a Dream

One had feathers like a blood-streaked koi,
another a tail of color-coded wires.
One was a blackbird stretching orchid wings,
another a flicker with a wounded head.

All flew like leaves fluttering to escape,
bright, circulating in burning air,
and all returned when the air cleared.
One was a kingfisher trapped in its bower,

deep in the ground, miles from water.
Everything is real and everything isn’t.
Some had names and some didn’t.
Named and nameless shapes of birds,

at night my hand can touch your feathers
and then I wipe the vernix from your wings,
you who have made bright things from shadows,
you who have crossed the distances to roost in me.


"Birds Appearing in a Dream", from Dark Wild Realm: Poems by Michael Collier. Copyright © 2006 by Michael Collier. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.


Michael Collier

Michael Collier was born in Phoenix, Arizona, in 1953. He received his MFA from the University of Arizona.

Collier is the author of seven poetry collections: My Bishop and Other Poems (University of Chicago Press, 2018); An Individual History (W. W. Norton, 2012); Dark Wild Realm (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2006); The Ledge (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2002), which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize; The Neighbor (University of Chicago Press, 1995); The Folded Heart (Wesleyan University Press, 1989); and The Clasp and Other Poems (Wesleyan University Press, 1986).

About My Bishop and Other Poems, A. Van Jordan writes: “You might think of this as a time that privileges politics over poetry if you want to make a political difference. Michael Collier’s My Bishop and Other Poems reminds us of the power of the observant in an age when, too often, we move too quickly to notice the world unfolding around us. These poems bring a passion, an empathy, and a way of seeing I had forgotten was possible.” 

Collier was the state poet laureate of Maryland from 2001 to 2004. He also served as the director of the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conferences from 1994 to 2017 and as poetry editor at Houghton Mifflin and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt from 2002 to 2012.  Currently, he is the director of the creative writing program at the University of Maryland and divides his time between Catonsville, Maryland, and Cornwall, Vermont. 


My Bishop and Other Poems (University of Chicago Press, 2018)
An Individual History (W. W. Norton, 2012)
Dark Wild Realm (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2006)
The Ledge (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2002)
The Neighbor (University of Chicago Press, 1995)
The Folded Heart (Wesleyan University Press, 1989)
The Clasp and Other Poems (Wesleyan University Press, 1986)

Date Published: 2006-01-01

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