Thursday, March 1, 2007

Poem by Billy Collins

Oh the rollercoaster of life. Yesterday hopeless, today strengthened.

What has brought me around? This poem.

Aimless Love

This morning as I walked along the lakeshore,
I fell in love with a wren
and later in the day with a mouse
the cat had dropped under the dining room table.

In the shadows of an autumn evening,
I fell for a seamstresss
till at her machine in the tailor’s window,
and later for a bowl of broth,
steam rising like smoke from a naval battle.

This is the best kind of love, I thought,
without recompense, without gifts,
or unkind words, without suspicion,
or silence on the telephone.

The love of the chestnut,
the jazz cap and one hand on the wheel.

No lust, no slam of the door –
the love of the miniature orange tree,
the clean white shirt, the hot evening shower,
the highway that cuts across Florida.

No waiting, no huffiness, or rancor –
just a twinge every now and then

for the wren who had built her nest
on a low branch overhanging the water
and for the dead mouse,
still dressed in its light brown suit.

But my heart is always propped up
in a field on its tripod,
ready for the next arrow.

After I carried the mouse by the tail
to a pile of leaves in the woods,
I found myself standing at the bathroom sink
gazing down affectionately at the soap,

so patient and soluble,
so at home in its pale green soap dish.
I could feel myself falling again
as I felt its turning in my wet hands
and caught the scent of lavender and stone.

~ Billy Collins ~

(Nine Horses)
I'm in love with this poem. This is how to live your life - falling in love with the subtle.
So I'll try to remember this poem as I sit in my lecture at Penn tonight, listening to the panel talk about where the next 100 million people will go, listening to the postering about urban planning, the urgings for sustainablity.
I'll try to remember this poem while in Michigan this weekend. As I visit my ailing grandmother and great uncle, I'll remember that their lives were filled with the love of the subtle. I'll picture my grandmother's hands in bowl of dough. I'll think of my uncle scolding his dog with the same love he has for his children and his grandchildren... and now, his great-grandchildren.
And when it's all too much, I'll focus my attention to the things I fall in love with everyday: the eye contact with the stranger that makes me feel I've known them forever, the soft sinking feeling of sitting on my bed after a shower while I decide what to wear, the peace that washes over my body when I remember the touch of a loved one, the joy of seeing new growth on my plants, the laughter I share with my friends.

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