Two Poems

Charles Simic

It’s a Hot Night

A swarm of half-naked, tattoo-covered bodies
To squeeze through on the sidewalk
With a wary glance at a dagger dripping with blood
And a winged serpent paused to strike.

Young boys are smoking reefers and shooting baskets
In the dark playground. Tipsy old men
Mutter to themselves on park benches
While red roses open at midnight and butterflies flit by.

Each one of them carries a deep meaning
Their owner would be happy to relate.
Don’t bother to ask, just admire
The black widow on the back of a shaved head,

The Grim Reaper riding a pretty girl’s shoulder
As they crowd the entrance of a club
One imagines is packed with even more fantastic creatures,
Swaying to music on the dance floor.

Old Friend

A mother’s voice calling her son home
On this tree-lined, poorly-lit street,
Made me catch a glimpse of someone I thought I knew
Walking ahead of me in a hurry,

Among the shadowy strollers, window-shopping
Or discreetly entering small, dim stores
And exiting them just as surreptitiously,
Where I caught up with a stranger

Carrying a sleepy little boy in his arms
Under the cover of early darkness,
Their eyes grown big with alarm
Seeing my happiness turn into disappointment.