Kenneth Boulding

bouldingHis whole face beamed
as he read Hagar the Horrible at breakfast.
I’d come home from a part-time job,
he’d be on the couch sipping tea,
dropping cookie crumbs on sonnets.
I stirred soup. He wrote the keynote
for an international peace conference.

While loading his laundry, he sang
Gilbert and Sullivan. White hair flared
around his neck, his crooked smile flickered
as he reported the total length in feet
of his five tall children. He hurried out the door
for two weeks in Japan with coat, shirt, flute,
and sketchbook in a gym bag.

While I mopped the floor he graded papers.
His cheeks were pink as he talked
of lobbying for a Department of Peace in Washington.
He stuttered with a British accent,
scattered aphorisms: “I am a pessimist
in the head, an optimist in the heart.”
“Wealth creates power, power destroys wealth.”

He slept in a single bed in our guest room
until Elise visited, then gently asked
if they might share the double in my son’s room.
As he soaked his arthritic knees in a hot bath,
a foreign colleague called. “Please
bring me the phone,” he said. Grateful
for the strategic washcloth, I did.

He said he’d had a mystic transformation,
years ago in a bathtub in London.
He’d felt a shifting of the heart, a lifting
of the mind, a sudden expansion beyond
the personal to the universal.

When Kenneth’s life intersected
with my life, mine, like the first bubble
growing larger in a hot teakettle,
began to crackle and rise.

Kenneth Boulding, 1910-1993, lived with my economist husband and me during a semester as visiting professor at Butler University in Indianapolis.

 

Linda Caldwell Lee
Indianapolis, Ind.

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