Poetry by Billy Collins

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. 

by Billy Collins 
You are so beautiful and I am a fool 
to be in love with you 
is a theme that keeps coming up 
in songs and poems. 
There seems to be no room for variation. 
I have never heard anyone sing 
I am so beautiful 
and you are a fool to be in love with me, 
even though this notion has surely crossed the minds of women and men alike. You are so beautiful, too bad you are a fool is another one you don't hear. 
Or, you are a fool to consider me beautiful. 
That one you will never hear, guaranteed. 
For no particular reason this afternoon 
I am listening to Johnny Hartman 
whose dark voice can curl around 
the concepts of love, beauty, and foolishness 
like no one else's can. 
It feels like smoke curling up from a cigarette someone left burning on a baby grand piano around three o' dock in the morning; smoke that billows up into the bright lights 
while out there in the darkness 
some of the beautiful fools have gathered around little tables to listen, 
some with their eyes dosed, 
others leaning forward into the music 
as if it were holding them up, 
or twirling the loose ice in a glass, 
slipping by degrees into a rhythmic dream. 
Yes, there is all this foolish beauty, 
borne beyond midnight, 
that has no desire to go home, 
especially now when everyone in the room 
is watching the large man with the tenor sax 
that hangs from his neck like a golden fish. 
He moves forward to the edge of the stage 
and hands the instrument down to me 
and nods that I should play. 
So I put the mouthpiece to my lips 
and blow into it with all my living breath. 
We are all so foolish, 
my long bebop solo begins by saying, 
so damn foolish 
we have become beautiful without even knowing it.