Though today is Sunday, the poem ‘Monday’ is in my heart and on my mind. This poem is for my brother, Pat, whose birthday is today. He’s a poet who doesn’t know it. He is a man who has always had a window to look out of… to sip his coffee by… to see what the rest of us can not see. To see as Pat sees, one must spend a lot of time at their window.
The birds are in their trees,
the toast is in the toaster,
and the poets are at their windows.
They are at their windows
in every section of the tangerine of earth –
the Chinese poets looking up at the moon,
the American poets gazing out
at the pink and blue ribbons of sunrise.
The clerks are at their desks,
the miners are down in their mines,
and the poets are looking out their windows
maybe with a cigarette, a cup of tea,
and maybe a flannel shirt or bathrobe is involved.
The proofreaders are playing the ping-pong
game of proofreading,
glancing back and forth from page to page,
the chefs are dicing celery and potatoes,
and the poets are at their windows
because it is their job for which
they are paid nothing every Friday afternoon.
Which window it hardly seems to matter
though many have a favorite,
for there is always something to see-
a bird grasping a thin branch,
the headlights of a taxi rounding a corner,
those two boys in wool caps angling across the street.
The fishermen bob in their boats,
the linemen climb their round poles,
the barbers wait by their mirrors and chairs,
and the poets continue to stare
at the cracked birdbath or a limb knocked down by the wind.
By now, it should go without saying
that what the oven is to the baker
and the berry-stained blouse to the dry cleaner,
so the window is to the poet.
before the invention of the window,
the poets would have had to put on a jacket
and a winter hat to go outside
or remain indoors with only a wall to stare at.
And when I say a wall,
I do not mean a wall with striped wallpaper
and a sketch of a cow in a frame.
I mean a cold wall of fieldstones,
the wall of the medieval sonnet,
the original woman’s heart of stone,
the stone caught in the throat of her poet-lover.
So, my dear brother Pat, for your birthday I give you this poem by Billy Collins. I give thanks to you for the time we had in our ‘penthouse apartment’ on top of that 5-story building in Oakland years ago, where you taught me the magic of staring out the window with coffee in hand. This is for all the years you’ve held onto your dreams when the rest of us have left our windows to slip into faster lanes. This is for all the times you’ve laughed and cried with me because of what you can see that the rest of us miss. This is for all of my favorite images of you throughout time: swan diving off Big Nose, soaring through the air in a full double layout on the trampoline, flying under the Golden Gate, crashing in the north woods, singing ‘seven fat cows’ straddling the bench on the Point, reading ‘Paddle’ to your sweet boy, wearing your ‘green shoes’ while creating magic in rooms across the globe — and many more, that remind me to savor the best bits of life in slow motion.
Happy Birthday, Patrushka dahlink!
I love you….