human-faced flies

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St Thomas Aquinas
-Charles Simic
I left parts of myself everywhere
The way absent-minded people leave
Gloves and umbrellas
Whose colors are sad from dispensing so much bad luck.

I was on a park bench asleep.
It was like the Art of Ancient Egypt.
I didn’t wish to bestir myself.
I made my long shadow take the evening train.

“We give death to a child when we give it a doll,”
Said the woman who had read Djuna Barnes.
We whispered all night. She had traveled to darkest Africa.
She had many stories to tell about the jungle.

I was already in New York looking for work.
It was raining as in the days of Noah.
I stood in many doorways of that great city.
Once I asked a man in a tuxedo for a cigarette.
He gave me a frightened look and stepped out into the rain.

Since “man naturally desires happiness”
According to St. Thomas Aquinas,
Who gave irrefutable proof of God’s existence and purpose,
I loaded trucks in the Garment Center.
A black man and I stole a woman’s red dress.
It was of silk; it shimmered.

Upon a gloomy night with all our loving ardors on fire,
We carried it down the long empty avenue,
Each holding one sleeve.
The heat was intolerable causing many terrifying human faces
To come out of hiding.

In the Public Library Reading Room
There was a single ceiling fan barely turning.
I had the travels of Herman Melville to serve me as a pillow.
I was on a ghost ship with its sails fully raised.
I could see no land anywhere.
The sea and its monsters could not cool me.

I followed a saintly looking nurse into a doctor’s office.
We edged past people with eyes and ears bandaged.
“I am a medieval philosopher in exile,”
I explained to my landlady that night.
And, truly, I no longer looked like myself.
I wore glasses with a nasty spider crack over one eye.

I stayed in the movies all day long.
A woman on the screen walked through a bombed city
Again and again. She wore army boots.
Her legs were long and bare. It was cold wherever she was.
She had her back turned to me, but I was in love with her.
I expected to find wartime Europe at the exit.

It wasn’t even snowing! Everyone I met
Wore a part of my destiny like a carnival mask.
“I’m Bartleby the Scrivener,” I told the Italian waiter.
“Me, too” he replied.
And I could see nothing but overflowing ashtrays
The human-faced flies were busy examining.

Photo by Ryoji Iwata on Unsplash

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