16 September 2007


It appears that I am a winter blogger. This weekend is the first of the fall that is cool enough here in Maryland to motivate jeans and a long sleeve shirt. Yesterday, we did the Maryland Renaissance Festival with our visiting student from Extremadura, Spain. RenFest is always wonderful, from Johnny Fox, the King of Swords (swallows them), to Jousting, the Maryland state sport! We actually had a jouster knocked off a horse this year (he was fine).

However, here's what I want to write about soon, from Panhala:


~ Billy Collins ~

I used to sit in the cafe of existentialism,

lost in a blue cloud of cigarette smoke,

contemplating the suicide a tiny Frenchman

might commit by leaping from the rim of my brandyglass.

I used to hunger to be engaged

as I walked the long shaded boulevards,

eyeing women of all nationalities,

a difficult paperback riding in my raincoat pocket.

But these days I like my ontology in an armchair,

a rope hammock, or better still, a warm bath

in a cork-lined room--disengaged, soaking

in the calm, restful waters of speculation.

Afternoons, when I leave the house

for the woods, I think of Aquinas at his desk,

fingers interlocked upon his stomach,

as he deduces another proof for God's existence,

intricate as the branches of these bare November trees.

And as I kick through the leaves and snap

the wind-fallen twigs, I consider Leibniz on his couch

reaching the astonishing conclusion that monads,

those windowless units of matter, must have souls.

But when I finally reach the top of the hill

and sit down on the flat tonnage of this boulder,

I think of Spinoza, most rarefied of them all.

I look beyond the treetops and the distant ridges

and see him sitting in a beam of Dutch sunlight

slowly stirring his milky tea with a spoon.

Since dawn he has been at his bench grinding lenses,

but now he is leaving behind the saucer and table,

the smoky chimneys and tile roofs of Amsterdam,

even the earth itself, pale blue, aqueous,

cloud-enshrined, titled back on the stick of its axis.

He is rising into that high dome of thought

where loose pages of Shelley float on the air,

where all the formulas of calculus unravel,

tumbling in the radiance of a round Platonic sun--

that zone just below the one where angels accelerate

and the amphitheatrical rose of Dante unfolds.

And now I stand up on the ledge to salute you, Spinoza,

and when I whistle to the dog and start down the hill,

I can feel the thick glass of your eyes upon me

as I step from the rock to glacial rock, and on her

as she sniffs her way through the leaves,

her tail straight back, her body low to the ground.

(The Art of Drowning)