Five Poems

Charles Simic

The New Office Tower

They tore down the seedy block
Of small, poorly-lit shops
With their dusty displays
Of love bracelets, nose rings,
Tarot cards and sticks of incense

Where years ago I saw a young man
With blood on his white shirt,
Blow soap bubbles on the sidewalk,
His face pinched and troubled
Save when he filled his cheeks with air

Aunt Dinah Sailed to China

Bearded ancestors, what became of you?
Have you gone and hid yourself
In some cabin in the woods
To listen to your whiskers grow in peace?

Clergymen patting chin curtains,
Soldiers with doorknockers,
Sickly youths with goatees,
Town drunks proud of their ducktails.

Cousin Kate, was that a real moustache
You wore as you stood in church
Waiting for your bridegroom
To finish combing his rat’s nest?

And you grandpa, when you shouted at God
To do something about the world,
He kept quiet and let the night fall
Seeing your beard was whiter than his.

Scribbled in the Dark

A shout in the street.
Someone locking horns with his demon
On the way home.
Then, calm returning.
Night turning cool.
The wind tousling a few leaves,
The birds in their nests
Pleased to be rocked back to sleep.
Cloud cover, no stars.
Streams of blood waiting for sunrise.

Gourmets of Tragedies

The season of fabulous feasts is coming.
Mouth-watering dishes of new evils
Of stunning splendor and variety
Are on their way to your dining table,

Each concoction artfully prepared,
To please your fastidious palate,
Elegantly served to seduce the eye
As well as to stimulate the appetite.

Have you made your choice?
The waiter will whisper as he lights the candles.
It will be June or January.
The one you adore will wear black.

Flushed after the roast and heavy dessert,
The taste of some sauce lingering
You will sigh and close your eyes in bliss.
The righteous love killing for their faith.

Labour and Capital

The softness of this motel bed
on which we made love
demonstrates to me in an impressive manner
the superiority of capitalism.

At the mattress factory, I imagine,
the employees are happy today.
It’s Sunday and they are working
extra hours like us for no pay.

Still, the way you open your legs
and reach for me with your hand
makes me think of the Revolution,
red banners, crowd charging,

someone stepping on a soapbox
as the flames engulf the palace,
and the old prince in full view
steps to his death from a balcony.