Friday, March 18, 2016

Two Poems by Charles Simic



I grew up bent over   
a chessboard.

I loved the word endgame. 
All my cousins looked worried.

It was a small house
near a Roman graveyard.   
Planes and tanks
shook its windowpanes.

A retired professor of astronomy   
taught me how to play.

That must have been in 1944.

In the set we were using,
the paint had almost chipped off   
the black pieces.

The white King was missing   
and had to be substituted for.

I’m told but do not believe   
that that summer I witnessed   
men hung from telephone poles.

I remember my mother   
blindfolding me a lot.
She had a way of tucking my head   
suddenly under her overcoat.

In chess, too, the professor told me,   
the masters play blindfolded,   
the great ones on several boards   
at the same time. 

Eyes Fastened with Pins 

How much death works,   
No one knows what a long   
Day he puts in. The little   
Wife always alone
Ironing death’s laundry.   
The beautiful daughters   
Setting death’s supper table.   
The neighbors playing   
Pinochle in the backyard   
Or just sitting on the steps   
Drinking beer. Death,   
Meanwhile, in a strange   
Part of town looking for   
Someone with a bad cough,
But the address is somehow wrong,   
Even death can’t figure it out   
Among all the locked doors ...   
And the rain beginning to fall.   
Long windy night ahead.   
Death with not even a newspaper   
To cover his head, not even   
A dime to call the one pining away,   
Undressing slowly, sleepily,   
And stretching naked   
On death’s side of the bed. 

Charles Simic has published numerous volumes of poetry: What the Grass Says, Kayak, 1967; Somewhere among Us a Stone Is Taking Notes, Kayak, 1969; Dismantling the Silence, Braziller, 1971; White, New Rivers Press, 1972, revised edition, Logbridge Rhodes, 1980; Return to a Place Lit by a Glass of Milk, Brazille,, 1974; Biography and a Lament, Bartholemew's Cobble, 1976; Charon's Cosmology, Braziller, 1977; Brooms: Selected Poems, Edge Press, 1978; School for Dark Thoughts, Banyan Press, 1978; Classic Ballroom Dances, Braziller, 1980; Austerities, Braziller, 1982; Weather Forecast for Utopia and Vicinity, Station Hill Press, 1983; Selected Poems, 1963-1983, Braziller, 1985; Unending Blues, Harcourt, 1986; Nine Poems, Exact Change, 1989; The World Doesn't End, Harcourt, 1989; The Book of Gods and Devils, Harcourt, 1990; Hotel Insomnia, Harcourt, 1992; A Wedding in Hell: Poems, Harcourt, 1994; Frightening Toys, Faber & Faber, 1995; Walking the Black Cat: Poems, Harcourt, 1996; Jackstraws: Poems, Harcourt, 1999, revised edition, Faber & Faber, 2000; Selected Early Poems, Braziller, 2000; Night Picnic, Harcourt, 2001; The Voice at 3:00 a.m.: Selected Late and New Poems, Harcourt, 2003; Selected Poems: 1963-2003, Faber and Faber, 2004; Aunt Lettuce, I Want to Peek under Your Skirt, Bloomsbury USA, 2005; My Noiseless Entourage: Poems, Harcourt, 2005; Monkey Around, 2006; Sixty Poems, Harvest Books, 2008; That Little Something: Poems, Harcourt, 2008; The Monster Loves His Labyrinth, Ausable Press, second printing, 2008. 

Simic has published his poems in such periodicals as Poetry, New Yorker, New York Times, Nation, Washington Post, Atlantic, Esquire, New Republic, American Poetry Review, Paris Review, and many others. He has also published numerous books in translation. Among many awards, his 1990 book of prose poems won the Pulitzer Prize; Walking the Black Cat (1996) was a finalist for the National Book Award; Jackstraws (1999) was a New York Times Notable Book of the year; Selected Poems 1963-2003 (2004) won the prestigious Griffin International Poetry Award (Poetry Foundation).  

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