Charles Simic

C
Charles Simic
The Stray
One day, chasing my tail here and there,
I stopped to catch my breath
On some corner in New York,
While people hurried past me,
All determined to get somewhere,
Save a few adrift like lost children.

What ever became of my youth?
I wanted to stop a stranger and ask.
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The Friends of Heraclitus
Your friend has died, with whom
You roamed the streets,
At all hours, talking philosophy.
So, today you went alone,
Stopping often to change places
With your imaginary companion,
And argue back against yourself
On the subject of appearances:
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Mirrors at 4 a.m.
You must come to them sideways
In rooms webbed in shadow,
Sneak a view of their emptiness
Without them catching
A glimpse of you in return.

The secret is,
Even the empty bed is a burden to them,
A pretense.
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The White Room
The obvious is difficult
To prove. Many prefer
The hidden. I did, too.
I listened to the trees.

They had a secret
Which they were about to
Make known to me,
And then didn’t.
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The Melon
There was a melon fresh from the garden
So ripe the knife slurped
As it cut it into six slices.
The children were going back to school.
Their mother, passing out paper plates,
Would not live to see the leaves fall.

I remember a hornet, too, that flew in
Through the open window
Mad to taste the sweet fruit
While we ducked and screamed,
Covered our heads and faces,
And sat laughing after it was gone.

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Nancy Jane
Grandma laughing on her deathbed.
Eternity, the quiet one, listening in.

Like moths around an oil lamp we were.
Like ragdolls tucked away in the attic.

In walked a cat with a mouthful of feathers.
(How about that?)

A dark little country store full of gravedigger’s
children buying candy.
(That’s how we looked that night.)

The young men pumping gas spoke of his friends:
the clouds.
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Autumn Sky
In my great grandmother's time,
All one needed was a broom
To get to see places
And give the geese a chase in the sky.



The stars know everything,
So we try to read their minds.
As distant as they are,
We choose to whisper in their presence.



Oh Cynthia,
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Empire of Dreams
On the first page of my dreambook
It’s always evening
In an occupied country.
Hour before the curfew.
A small provincial city.
The houses all dark.
The storefronts gutted.

I am on a street corner
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“I am the last . . .”
I am the last Napoleonic soldier. It’s almost two hundred years later and I am still retreating from Moscow. The road is lined with white birch trees and the mud comes up to my knees. The one-eyed woman wants to sell me a chicken, and I don’t even have any clothes on.
The Germans are going one way; I am going the other. The Russians are going still another way and waving good-by. I have a ceremonial saber. I use it to cut my hair, which is four feet long.
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Tapestry
It hangs from heaven to earth.
There are trees in it, cities, rivers,
small pigs and moons. In one corner
the snow falling over a charging cavalry,
in another women are planting rice.

You can also see:
a chicken carried off by a fox,
a naked couple on their wedding night,
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Watch Repair
A small wheel
Incandescent,
Shivering like
A pinned butterfly.

Hands thrown up
In all directions:
The crossroads
One arrives at
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The Wooden Toy
1

The brightly-painted horse
Had a boy’s face,
And four small wheels
Under his feet,

Plus a long string
To pull him by this way and that
Across the floor,
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Puppet-Maker
In his fear of solitude, he made us.
Fearing eternity, he gave us time.
I hear his white cane thumping
Up and down the hall.

I expect neighbors to complain, but no.
The little girl who sobbed
When her daddy crawled into her bed
Is quiet now.

It's quarter to two.
On this street of darkened pawnshops,
Welfare hotels and tenements,
One or two ragged puppets are awake.
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Charon’s Cosmology
With only his dim lantern
To tell him where he is
And every time a mountain
Of fresh corpses to load up

Take them to the other side
Where there are plenty more
I’d say by now he must be confused
As to which side is which
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Concerning My Neighbors, the Hittites
Great are the Hittites.
Their ears have mice and mice have holes.
Their dogs bury themselves and leave the bones
To guard the house. A single weed holds all their storms
Until the spiderwebs spread over the heavens.
There are bits of straw in their lakes and rivers
Looking for drowned men. When a camel won’t pass
Through the eye of one of their needles,
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Eyes Fastened with Pins
How much death works,
No one knows what a long
Day he puts in. The little
Wife always alone
Ironing death’s laundry.
The beautiful daughters
Setting death’s supper table.
The neighbors playing
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Fork
This strange thing must have crept
Right out of hell.
It resembles a bird’s foot
Worn around the cannibal’s neck.

As you hold it in your hand,
As you stab with it into a piece of meat,
It is possible to imagine the rest of the bird:
Its head which like your fist
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My Shoes
Shoes, secret face of my inner life:
Two gaping toothless mouths,
Two partly decomposed animal skins
Smelling of mice nests.

My brother and sister who died at birth
Continuing their existence in you,
Guiding my life
Toward their incomprehensible innocence.
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Old Couple
They’re waiting to be murdered,
Or evicted. Soon
They expect to have nothing to eat.
In the meantime, they sit.

A violent pain is coming, they think.
It will start in the heart
And climb into the mouth.
They’ll be carried off in stretchers, howling.
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Prodigy
I grew up bent over
a chessboard.

I loved the word endgame.

All my cousins looked worried.

It was a small house
near a Roman graveyard.
Planes and tanks
shook its windowpanes.
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