Featured Poem: The Meatball Department by Billy Collins

by Megan Sexton  ·  November 08, 2011

Billy Collins

The Meatball Department


There is no such thing as a meatball department

as far as anyone knows.

No helpful clerk as ever answered the question

where do you keep your meatballs?

by pointing to the back of the store

and saying you’ll find them over there in the meatball department.


We don’t have to narrow it down

to Swedish and Italian meatballs to know

that meatballs are already too specific

to have an entire department named after them

unlike Produce, Appliances, or Ladies’ Shoes.


It’s like whenever you get angry at me

for reading in bed with the light on

when you are trying to fall asleep,

I cannot find a department for that.


Like meatballs, it’s too small a thing to have its own department

unlike Rudeness and Selfishness which are located

down various aisles of the store known as Marriage.


I should just turn off the light

but instead I have stopped in that vast store

and I will now climb into my cart,

clasp my knees against my chest and wait

for the manager or some other person of authority


to push me down to the police station

or just out to the parking lot,

otherwise known as the department of lost husbands,

or sometimes, as now, the department of dark and pouring rain.


Published in Five Points Volume 13.3.