February 22, 2012

An Open Heart: Billy Collins' Poem "Aimless Love"

Have you ever seen something utterly ordinary––sunlight touching a dish, an insect climbing a stem, a leaf sinking into snow––and been touched to your soul by the sight of it? Sometimes these small moments seem to carry the meaning of existence. Poetry, with its concise form, is the perfect vehicle for expressing this experience. I recently wrote about the poems of Fernando Pessoa–– "Occasionally I hear the wind blow, / And I find that just hearing the wind blow makes it worth/ having been born."––which you can read here. And last week a Facebook friend, the artist Katherine Aimone (thanks, Katherine!) posted a marvelous poem by Billy Collins that sweetly and simply and humorously spoke of these moments. So I'd like to share it with you.

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 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.

As an homage to Collins, I took this photograph of the soap dish at my kitchen sink: the soap, its square resoluteness worn and softened, serving as resting place for the woven soft rectangle of scrubber; both gently touched by light, vulnerable, as they rest on the hard metal. Thank you, Billy Collins, for opening my heart "propped up/ in a field on its tripod" to this sight of the soap "so patient and soluble".


  1. Oh yes I have those moments often. They are what make life bearable.

    1. They do seem more and more important to me too, Lisa.

  2. And you have given us one of those moments with your post, your attention so finely tuned to small things.
    My heart feels lifted seeing the soap in all its humbleness elevated on its silver pedestal.
    Nice (-:

    1. Thanks, Blorgie, I'm so glad you liked the post, and the photo.

    2. Once again you are a gift that keeps on giving! Every day I open your message with the thought of what is it today? An art lesson, a look into your studio and the work you have just created or as in today, the joy of living in the moment and appreciating all aspects. It helps to support one of my mottos; "The best dreams happen with your eyes wide open." The poem is printed and hung on the refrigerator. Thank you for today's gift.

  3. OMG i am so glad I found you.....thank you again.

  4. Sue and Jan, I'm very pleased that this blog gives you pleasure; it means a lot to me. Thanks!