Sixty Poems

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Saturday, July 12, 2008
by Charles Simic This collection is a compilation that spans previous collected poems from 1986 to 2005. It came out in 2007, in honor of Simic being named Poet Laureate. It's a good introduction to or overview of his work, but some of my favorites are missing. (But maybe your favorites are all right here.. you'd better look and see.)

I bought my copy from Auntie's Bookstore in Spokane, Washington during my recent road trip. It was almost closing time -- Martina had already found something, I had talked my sister into a purchase ( a specialty of mine -- really all you have to say is "it's about beowulf!" or "geology, industrial architecture!" if it were about all three, she would buy ten copies), and I was wandering around and realized that I could also buy something. What a concept! They made the final closing announcement. I was fooling around looking here and there, Martina and my sister were already at the counter paying. Finally I spotted this collection -- hooray! I had a library copy at home, but there were a million holds on it, plus some things you just need on the shelf in case of emergency. Long story short, I ended up not having to pay any sales tax (Oregonians are apparently tax-exempt in Spokane), and the girl at the counter was really nice even though I was the horrible late customer who was late for no other reason than dawdling in the poetry aisle. I can only think that my good fortune was because she also loves Charles Simic.

I've written about him here before, so I will try not to repeat myself too much. I like him because he loves trees and movies and can't go to sleep. I love him because he loves the world even though it makes him crazy and sometimes depressed. He likes to eat, he likes to read, he enjoys the company of women. He's funny, he's crabby, he's sexy, he's kind. He's really smart. He takes a gentle view of humanity's foibles (because he is so human himself), but that isn't a free pass for our worst offenses (from which he doesn't excuse himself). He has a wild imagination, but tempers it just enough so that wildness is approachable; relatable, yet still mysterious. It may not make sense but I know what it means. These may not be woods I've been in before, but they are woods I know.

Here are two from this collection (which means there are 58 more!) It's always hard to pick because I like so many, but these were two that hopped out at me this time through.


Lovers who take pleasure
In the company of trees,
Who seek diversion after many kisses
In each other's arms,
Watching the leaves,

The way they quiver
At the slightest breath of wind,
The way they thrill,
And shudder almost individually,
One of them beginning to shake
While the others are still quiet,
Unaccountably, unreasonably--

What am I saying?
One leaf in a million more fearful,
More happy,
Than all the others?

On this oak tree casting
Such deep shade,
And my lids closing sleepily
With that one leaf twittering
Now darkly, now luminously.

the sun exists!

Club Midnight

Are you the sole owner of a seedy nightclub?

Are you its sole customer, sole bartender
Sole waiter prowling around the empty tables?

Do you put on wee-hour girlie shows
With dead stars of black-and-white films?

Is your office upstairs over the neon lights,
Or down deep in the rat cellar?

Are bearded Russian thinkers your silent partners?
Do you have a doorman by the name of Dostoyevsky?

Is Fu Manchu coming tonight?
Miss Emily Dickinson?

Do you happen to have an immortal soul?
Do you have a sneaky suspicion that you have none?

Is that why you flip a white pair of dice,
In the dark, long after the joint closes?
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