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' is published in Nine Horses by Billy Collins


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