Four Poems

Charles Simic

Relaxing in a Madhouse

They had already attached the evening’s tears to the windowpanes.
The general was busy with the ant farm in his head.
The holy saints in their tombs were burning. One of them, flames and all, was the prisoner of several female movie stars.
Moses wore a false beard and so did Lincoln.
X reproduced the Socratic method of interrogation by demonstrating the ceiling’s ignorance.
‘They stole the secret of the musical matchbook from me,’ confided Adam.
‘The world’s biggest rooster was going to make me famous,’ said Eve.
O to run naked over the darkening meadow after the cold shower!
In the white pavilion the nurse was already turning water into wine
Hurry home, dark cloud.

My Magician

Someone pulled me out of a tux sleeve,
Doctor, hanging for my dear life
At the end of a long white scarf.
I fluttered over my magician.
I flew around the hushed theatre

Saturdays, at nine and at midnight,
He sawed me in half,
While I lay together in the coffin
With my naked bride.
I never got to see his face
Even when the applause started.

We held our breaths under his hat.
Two lookalike dummies, we took
Turns sitting on his knee.
Through a row of wooden teeth
We spoke of God the Father.
Then we vanished in a pack of cards.

We were terrified and happy.
One instant he was swallowing fire,
The next he was spitting it
With the two of us riding the long flame
Like a coach into the sunset.

Between tricks we were nowhere
We could think of:
Neither in this world with its chained bear
And its magic mirror,
Nor in that other
Where the white clouds float and sheep graze.

Pastoral Harpsichord

A house with a sagging porch
On the road to nowhere.
The missus naked because of the heat,
A bag of Frito Banditos in her lap,
President Bush on TV
Watching her every move.

Poor reception, that’s the one
Advantage we have here,
I said to the mutt lying at my feet
And sighing in sympathy.
On another channel the preacher
Came chaperoned by his ghost
When he shut his eyes full of tears
To pray for dollars.

‘Bring me another beer,’ I said to her ladyship,
And when she wouldn’t oblige,
I went out to make chamber music
Against the sunflowers in the yard.

What the gypsies told my grandmother while she was still a young girl

War, illness and famine will make you their favourite grandchild.
You’ll be like a blind person watching a silent movie.
You’ll chop onions and pieces of your heart into the same hot skillet.
Your children will sleep in a suitcase tied with a rope.
Your husband will kiss your breasts every night as if they were two gravestones

Already the crows are grooming themselves for you and your people.
Your oldest son will lie with flies on his lips without smiling or lifting his hand.
You’ll envy every ant you meet in your life and every roadside weed.
Your body and soul will sit on separate stoops chewing the same piece of gum.

Hey little cutie for sale, the devil will say.
The undertaker will buy a toy for your grandson.
You will pray to God but God will hang a sign that He’s not to be disturbed.
Your mind will be a hornet’s nest even on your deathbed.
Question no further, that’s all I know.