Two Poems

Charles Simic

After St Sebastian
Had his chest
Pierced by arrows
He was nursed
Back to health
By a rich widow in Rome
With the help
Of a blind servant girl
Whose soft steps
I may have heard
Entering and leaving
My room at night
And whose name
I’d love to know
And whisper in the dark.

  Saw a toad
jump out of boiling water
  Saw a chicken
dance on a hot plate
  in a penny arcade
Saw Etruscans in a museum
  flogging slaves
to the accompaniment
  of pipes and flutes
Saw a palm tree
  trying to outrun a hurricane
Saw sea waves
  rush ashore
some angry
  some afraid
of what they’ll find
  Saw men and women
lose their heads
  and search for them everywhere
Saw a feast laid out
  on a long table
to which only crows came
  Saw a dog go forth
barking like a prophet of old
  Saw rats and mice
running terrified
  through mazes
   heralding
the evils to come