Sunday

Sep. 1, 2013

Aimless Love

by Billy Collins

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 seamstress
still 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.

"Aimless Love" by Billy Collins, from Aimless Love. © Random House, 2013. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the anniversary of the attack that began WWII in 1939. At 11 minutes after five in the morning, Hitler issued a proclamation for his army to invade Poland. He claimed it was a counterattack, that the Poles had started the whole thing, but in reality, German troops had been moving to the eastern border for weeks; Polish troops had simply moved up to their own border to defend it. Hitler had recently signed a pact with Soviet Premier Josef Stalin, surprising everyone, because the two men had been sworn enemies. Their intention was to carve up Poland, giving the western third to Germany while the Soviets took the rest.

Britain and France, allied with Poland, entered the war two days later. But by then it was too late to save Poland. The German army unleashed the new form of warfare they called Blitzkrieg, or "lightning war," and within six days, had taken Krakow. Within 10, they were outside Warsaw. By early October, Poland had fallen.

It was on this day in 1773 that 20-year-old Phillis Wheatley published Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral (books by this author). It was the first book of poetry published by an African-American. Phillis was born in West Africa and brought over as a slave when she was a young girl. She was purchased by a Boston family, who taught her to read and write, and eventually gave her her freedom. She went to London when her book was published, and she met many important people there, including the Lord Mayor, who gave her a copy of Paradise Lost. George Washington praised her talents, and she published numerous poems in magazines. But her husband fell into debt and then abandoned her when she was pregnant, and she died in childbirth, in a boarding house, when she was only 31 years old.

On this day in 1904, Helen Keller (books by this author) graduated from Radcliffe. She was the first blind-and-deaf student ever to graduate from any college anywhere.

Helen Keller, who said, "Life is either a daring adventure or nothing."

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®

 









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