Four Poems

Charles Simic

Everybody Had Lost Track of Time

The wide open door of a church.
The parked hearse with bald tyres.
The grandmother on the sidewalk
Leaning on a cane and cupping her ear.

The lodger no one has ever seen
Drawing her bath upstairs.
The cat in the window
That keeps an eye on things.

An old man carrying a chair
And a long rope in the backyard
As if he meant to hang himself.
Words on the tip of the tongue.

Kazoo Weddings

O the beautiful kazoo weddings in the spring!
The groom is red-cheeked as he blows into a kazoo
And so is the lovely bride.
The minister has one in his hand as he prepares
to bless their union.
While the happy guests are blowing hundreds of kazoos,
The crying bridesmaid has let hers slip between her breasts.
The proud mother-in-law stands up and covers her ears.
Even our Lord on his Cross is tooting a kazoo.
It’s like a bad muffler on a hearse,
A wedding dress being ripped open at midnight.
What are they playing, the hard of hearing are asking?
It’s a wedding march, grandpa, the ushers shout.
I See Lots of Sticks
Do country people still whittle around here?
Do they carry clasp knives for that purpose?
Do they sit on porches and tree stumps
With shavings piling up at their feet?

Are dogs keeping a close eye on them?
Do they lay their heads on their paws
And sigh as the stick gets shorter?
What thoughts are they thinking as they whittle?

Little thoughts about many little things,
Or big thoughts about one big thing?
Come dark, is there enough of a stick left
To sit back and chew on a toothpick?

Starlings in a Tree at Dusk

Spooked me. They had heard a rumour
We had not yet,
And were collectively
On the verge of panic.

The few of us passing the park
Quickened our steps,
With a wary, sidelong glance
At each other.

Bent under some obscure burden,
We were fleeing,
Crossing the avenue and dispersing
As if we, too, had wings.