Feb. 19, 2001

Home Again

by Billy Collins

MONDAY, 19 February 2001
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Poem: "Home Again," by Billy Collins, from Picnic, Lightning (University of Pittsburgh Press).

Home Again

The black porcelain lamp
painted with boughs of cherry blossoms
still stands on its end table,
unlit, the little chain untouched,
just the way I left it,

just the way it remained while I was off
leaning into the prow of a boat,
doused with spray, heading for a limestone island,
or sitting at the base of a high Celtic cross
eating a green apple.

While I balanced a pan of hot water on a stone wall
and shaved outside a cottage
overlooking the Irish Sea,
this stack of books, this chair, and paperweight
were utterly still, as they are now.

And you, red box of matches on the floor,
you waited here too, faithful as Penelope,
while I saw the tiny fields
disappear under the wings of my plane,
or swarm up and down the flowing Corrib River.

As I lay in a meadow near Ballyvaughan,
ankles crossed, arms behind my head,
watching clouds as they rolled in—
billowing, massive, Atlantic-fresh—
you all held your places in these rooms,
stuck to your knitting,
waited for me to stand here again,
bags at my feet, house key still in hand,
admiring your constancy,
your silent fealty, your steadfast repose.

Today is President's Day, celebrating the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln (February 12) and George Washington (February 22).

It's the birthday of novelist Amy Tan, born in Oakland, California (1952). When she was thirty-five years old, she took her mother to China to visit her half-sisters and to learn more about her heritage. Out of that experience came Tan's first novel, The Joy Luck Club (1989). Other novels followed, including The Kitchen God's Wife (1991), The Hundred Secret Senses (1995), and The Bonesetter's Daughter (2001).

It's the birthday of novelist and short-story writer Carson McCullers, born in Columbus, Georgia (1917). Her original intention was to study music, and she came to New York at the age of 17 to attend Juilliard. But she lost her wallet and her tuition fees, so she got a job and took writing classes at Columbia University. Her first and most critically acclaimed novel, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (1940), concerns four lonely misfits in a small town in Georgia. Her best-known work, The Member of the Wedding (1946), is the story of a thirteen-year-old girl who is jealous of her brother's impending wedding. Other works include Reflections in a Golden Eye (1941), and The Ballad of the Sad Café (1951). She suffered from poor health all her life, and had several strokes that left her partially paralyzed.

It's the birthday of writer Kay Boyle, born in St. Paul, Minnesota (1902), who spent much of her childhood in Europe, her teenage years in the United States, and then returned to Europe when she was twenty-one. She won two O. Henry Memorial Awards for her short stories "The White Horses of Vienna" (1936), and "Defeat" (1941), and was a foreign correspondent for The New Yorker after World War Two.

It's the birthday of astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus, born in Torun, Poland (1473). He laid the foundation for modern astronomy by disputing the widely held belief that the earth was the center of the universe. Instead, he pronounced that Earth, and the other planets, revolved around the Sun. This theory caused profound shock and a revolution in scientific and philosophical thought.

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




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