Four Poems

Charles Simic

The Preacher Says

Regiments of the damned, halt!

So, we turned to take a better look
At the spread eagle on the sidewalk.

There he was, hair combed over his eyes.

Abominations, he called after us,

Everything crummy and screwed up since Adam
Is thanks to you!

Let’s see you turn water into wine!

Let’s see you get down on your knees and pray!

     *

You are nothing but a lightning bug
The night flicks off its sleeve!

An abandoned movie lot in the desert
With its windows broken.

Every one of your wishes has ridden off
Into the sunset.

Raise your arms in farewell,
Ding-a-ling,

The red wind is looking for you.

     *

Even the rats when they die
Are going to a better world!

Even the scuffed shoes
Of Catholic boys!

Even you with a hearing aid

And a nose on you
Like the key to the firehouse!

     *

Murderers crawling in the playpen,
How big you’ve grown!

I hear your baby talk,

And the way you rock your wooden horse

The day you’re thinking about
Wringing my neck.

In the dims, the murky dusks,
Of your brain on Judgment Day,

It’ll be like 100,000 firecrackers
Going off

All at the same time.

     *

The preacher says:

I’d like to be God’s video game
In a closed penny arcade

On a dark street,

Its orange lights flashing all by themselves

All night long.

Entertaining the Canary

Yellow feathers,
Is it true
You chirp to the cop
On the beat?

Desist. Turn your
Nervous gaze
At the open bathroom door
Where I’m soaping

My love’s back
And putting my chin on her shoulder
So I can do the same for her
Breasts and crotch.

Sing. Flutter your wings
As if you were applauding,
Or I’ll throw her black slip
Over your gilded cage.

Bed Music

Our love was brand new,
But your bedsprings were old.
Downstairs, they stopped eating
With forks in the air,
Made the grandmother climb
And peek through the keyhole,

As we went right ahead
Making the springs squeak,
Playing Big Leg Mama,
Playing Shake it Baby,
Playing Low Down on the Bayou
And Carolina Shout.

That was the limit!
They called the fire brigade.
They called the Law.
We only had a hot washboard and a kazoo,
We told the cops.
Could’ve used a gut-bucket and some beer.

Le Dame e i Cavalieri

Considering our resources, it was a staggering sum.
A dozen birds of paradise spit-roasted with
Red and yellow cherries in their beaks.
Here was finally something to make amends
For all the greasy burgers and fries we lived on.
It was like a church choir strolling into a whorehouse;
I mean, our anticipation and sinful joy
At the prospect of such a feast. Fake Madonna
Biting your nails, and you, too, Doc,
Shaking hands all around, get over here!
Our quarters are cramped, but we can all fit
If we sit in each other’s laps. It’ll be
Like a seance and we the twelve psychic crime solvers.
Mr Undertaker, and you Mr Corpse,
Let me be the first to say, this bird of heaven
Looks good but tastes something awful.