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SIMIC, Charles

Clouds Gathering

It seemed the kind of life we wanted.

Wild strawberries and cream in the morning.

Sunlight in every room.

The two of us walking by the sea naked.

Some evenings, however, we found ourselves

Unsure of what comes next.

Like tragic actors in a theater on fire,

With birds circling over our heads,

The dark pines strangely still,

Each rock we stepped on bloodied by the sunset.

We were back on our terrace sipping wine.

Why always this hint of an unhappy ending?

Clouds of almost human appearance

Gathering on the horizon, but the rest lovely

With the air so mild and the sea untroubled.

The night suddenly upon us, a starless night.

You lighting a candle, carrying it naked

Into our bedroom and blowing it out quickly.

The dark pines and grasses strangely still.

Last Picnic

Before the fall rains come,

Let’s have one more picnic,

Now that the leaves are turning color

And the grass is still green in places.

Bread, cheese and some black grapes

Ought to be enough,

And a bottle of red wine to toast the crows

Puzzled to find us sitting here.

If it gets cold—and it will—I’ll hold you close.

Night will come early.

We’ll watch the sky, hoping for a full moon

To light our way home.

And if there isn’t one, we’ll put all our trust

In your book of matches

And my sense of direction

As we grope our way in the dark.

Mystic Life

It’s like fishing in the dark

If you ask me:

Our thoughts are the hooks,

Our hearts the raw bait.

We cast the line over our heads,

Past all believing,

Into the starless midnight sky,

Until it’s lost to sight.

The line’s long unravelling

Rising in our throats like a sigh

Of a long-day’s weariness,

Soul-searching and revery.

The Oldest Child

The night still frightens you.

You know it is interminable

And of vast, unimaginable dimensions.

"That's because His insomnia is permanent,"

You've read some mystic say.

Is it the point of His schoolboy's compass

That pricks your heart?

Somewhere perhaps the lovers lie

Under the dark cypress trees,

Trembling with happiness,

But here there's only your beard of many days

And a night moth shivering

Under your hand pressed against your chest.

Oldest child, Prometheus

Of some cold, cold fire you can't even name

For which you're serving slow time

With that night moth's terror for company.

Talking To Little Birdies

Not a peep out of you now

After the bedlam early this morning.

Are you begging pardon of me

Hidden up there among the leaves,

Or are your brains momentarily overtaxed?

You savvy a few things I don't:

The overlooked sunflower seed worth a holler;

The traffic of cats in the yard;

Strangers leaving the widow's house,

Tieless and wearing crooked grins.

Or have you got wind of the world's news?

Some new horror I haven't heard about yet?

Which one of you was so bold as to warn me,

Our sweet setup is in danger?

Kids are playing soldiers down the road,

Pointing their rifles and playing dead.

Little birdies, are you sneaking wary looks

In the thick foliage as you hear me say this?


for Tomaz, Susan and George

Only brooms

Know the devil

Still exists,

That the snow grows whiter

After a crow has flown over it,

That a dark dusty corner

Is the place of dreamers and children,

That a broom is also a tree

In the orchard of the poor,

That a hanging roach there

Is a mute dove.

Brooms appear in dreambooks

As omens of approaching death.

This is their secret life.

In public, they act like flat-chested old maids

Preaching temperance.

They are sworn enemies of lyric poetry.

In prison they accompany the jailer,

Enter cells to hear confessions.

Their short-end comes down

When you least expect it.

Left alone behind a door

Of a condemned tenement,

They mutter to no one in particular,

Words like virgin wind moon-eclipse,

And that most sacred of all names:

Hieronymous Bosch.

In this and in no other manner

Was the first ancestral broom made:

Namely, they plucked all the arrows

From the bent back of Saint Sebastian.

They tied them with a rope

On which Judas hung himself.

Stuck in the stilt

On which Copernicus

Touched the morning star...

Then the broom was ready

To leave the monastery.

The dust welcomed it -

The great pornographer

Immediately wanted to

Look under its skirt.

The secret teaching of brooms

Excludes optimism, the consolation

Of laziness, the astonishing wonders

Of a glass of aged moonshine.

It says: the bones end up under the table.

Bread-crumbs have a mind of their own.

The milk is you-know-who's semen.

The mice have the last squeal.

As for the famous business

Of levitation, I suggest remembering:

There is only one God

And his prophet is Mohammed.

And then finally there's your grandmother

Sweeping the dust of the nineteenth century

Into the twentieth, and your grandfather plucking

A straw out of the broom to pick his teeth.

Long winter nights.

Dawns a thousand years deep.

Kitchen windows like heads

Bandaged for toothache.

The broom beyond them sweeping,

Tucking in the lucent grains of dust

Into neat pyramids,

That have tombs in them,

Already sacked by robbers,

Once, long ago.