Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Great Things Have Happened

This is without a doubt one of the best poems I've ever read, by the late Canadian poet Alden Nowlan, who suffered a great deal of hardship in his life. The poem is about an experience he shared with his wife and her son, whom he adopted.


Great Things Have Happened

We were talking about the great things
that have happened in our lifetimes;
and I said, "Oh, I suppose the moon landing
was the greatest thing that has happened
in my time." But, of course, we were all lying.
The truth is the moon landing didn't mean
one-tenth as much to me as one night in 1963
when we lived in a three-room flat in what once had been
the mansion of some Victorian merchant prince
(our kitchen had been a clothes closet, I'm sure),
on a street where by now nobody lived
who could afford to live anywhere else.
That night, the three of us, Claudine, Johnnie and me,
woke up at half-past four in the morning
and ate cinnamon toast together.

"Is that all?" I hear somebody ask.

Oh, but we were silly with sleepiness
and, under our windows, the street-cleaners
were working their machines and conversing in Italian, and
everything was strange without being threatening,
even the tea-kettle whistled differently
than in the daytime: it was like the feeling
you get sometimes in a country you've never visited
before, when the bread doesn't taste quite the same,
the butter is a small adventure, and they put
paprika on the table instead of pepper,
except that there was nobody in this country
except the three of us, half-tipsy with the wonder
of being alive, and wholly enveloped in love.

(From What Happened When He Went to the Store for Bread. © Nineties Press, 1993.)


Robin E. said...

Oh, this is so lovely... Thank you.

Wandering Heart said...

Oh you should have included a warning because now I'm trying not to cry in a library! Thanks for sharing.

Pentimento said...

Oh, I know, Wandering Heart.

Sally Thomas said...


MrsDarwin said...

Very beautiful. Thanks!