signs of the times

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Signs of the Times
Charles Simic
For a mind full of disquiet
A trembling roadside weed is Cassandra,
And so is the right
Of a boarded up public library,
The rows of books beyond its windows
Unopened for years,
The sickly old dog on its steps,
And a man slumped next to him,
His mouth working mutely
Like an actor unable to recall his lines
At the end of some tragic farce.

elusive something

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That Elusive Something
Charles Simic
Was it in the smell of freshly baked bread
That came out to meet me in the street?
The face of a girl carrying a white dress
From the cleaners with her eyes half closed?

The sight of a building blackened by fire
Where once I went to look for work?
The toothless old man passing out leaflets
For a clothing store going out of business?

Or was it the woman pushing a baby carriage
About to turn the corner? I ran after,
As if the little one lying in it was known to me,
And found myself alone on a busy street

I didn’t recognize, feeling like someone
Out for the first time after a long illness,
Who sees the world with his heart,
Then hurries home to forget how it felt.

scribble

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Illegible Scribble
Charles Simic
These rags the spirit borrows
To clothe itself
Against the chill of mortality.
O barbed wire of crossed-out words,
Crown of thorns,
Camp meeting of dead wall reveries,
Spilled worry beads,
Fortune-teller’s coffee dregs,
My footholds in the abyss.

chips on the table

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Last Bet for the Night
Charles Simic
Wagered one more thought
Against the universe,
The one about this moment
I’m living through
Being all that’s true,
With my heart leaping
To place another red chip
On this dark night’s
Vast and unattended gaming table.

snow piled

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The Blizzard
Charles Simic
O to be inside a mailbox
On a snow-piled street corner
Snuggled against a letter
Sending love and hot kisses
To some lucky fellow out there.

Photo by Kirsty TG on Unsplash

faces of strangers

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Swept Away
Charles Simic
Melville had the sea and Poe his nightmares,
To thrill them and haunt them,
And you have the faces of strangers,
Glimpsed once and never again.

Like that woman whose eye you caught
On a crowded street in New York
Who spun around after she went by
As if she had just seen a ghost.

Leaving you with a memory of her hand
Rising to touch her flustered face
And muffle what might’ve been something
She was saying as she was swept away.

empty-ish

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Sorry, My Lord
Radmila Lazić
I’m penniless, my Lord.
Empty heart, empty pussy.
The pockets of my soul are turned inside out.
In my head something tinkles
As in a Red Cross box.
Slip something in my wallet, Lord.

I’m empty and broke.
My heart whistles like a teakettle.
Elsewhere, landscapes burst with beauty.
Here darkness presses on the eyelids.

I squandered everything, blew it away
As if there was no tomorrow.
Now it’s Your turn to give me something.
Feed me, heal me
Before You write it down in Your book.
Give me a butt, a lousy nickel.
Give this sinner a cock.

Give me this day.

I neither sow nor reap,
Nor do I weave.
I obeyed Thee, Lord,
Now You take care of me.
I laze in bed past noon,
Loaf around all day with nothing to do.
Nights I spend in bars or over my manuscripts,
Keep vigil, bleed.
In the morning I step on the cold floor of my heart.
Your son, Your darling,
I sniff between his legs
The way a bitch sniffs her litter.
You said: Do unto others
As you would have done unto you.
But that man gave me a kick,
Shook me like sand out of a sandal.
I suspect other heels dance now
On his heart’s stage
While mine lies hollow like a gutter
Beaten by lethal drops of rain.

Nothing comes easy to me anymore-
Narrow gate, narrow path.
Stop staring at me, Lord.
Gravity won’t hold me up.
I ‘m tipsy, I’ve lost my footing.
The street grows even more crooked.
My house is even more distant.
Give me Your hand, extend Your finger
Like a torch, not a whip.
Life wails like a mouth organ.
I’ve thoroughly lost my way.
I can’t tell from the birds,
Plants, trees, cardinal points,
Sweetwater fish from the deep-sea kind,
The source from the mouth of a river,
The dreams over which I wade
From the street where I swing my hips.

Many times I fell in love forever.
My heart was a hot stove.
Now the jug is broken.
Let there be sex unstained by love
Is my slogan now.

Every other desire I shook off
Like raindrops from a coat.
Have mercy, Lord.
I sing of a drowned soul
Which I can’t drag to the shore.
My hands hang like wild game.
Help me! Rescue me!
Give me-mouth-to-mouth!

I love strong drink, violent men,
And other such foolish things.
I confess to You, Lord,
Not a Single sin eluded me.
Like Your own body
My heart is a pincushion.

Sorry, Lord.
I’m neither Martha nor Magdalena.
I’m what You spat out, Your discharge.
Now weigh it all on Your scales.
Don’t tip them, don’t cheat on me.
Go and weigh them.
Blind my heart, take away my sight
To suffer and pay.
Lord, have mercy on me.

Original

Sorry, Gospode
-Radmila Lazić
Švorc sam, Gospode.
Prazno srce, prazna pica,
Izvrnuti džepovi moje duše.
U glavi tek ponešto zveči
Kao u konzervi prilog za Crveni krst.
Tutni nešto, Bogo, u moj buđelar.

Prazna sam i bez prebijene
Srce mi pišti ko čajnik.
Negde vidici pucaju od lepote,
Ovde sumrak pritisko kapke.

Sve sam protraćila, proćerdala.
Sve spiskala.
Sad Ti udeli, nahrani, isceli.
Pre nego što ubeležiš,
Daj pljugu, daj kintu,
Daj kitu, ovoj grešnici.

Daj mi danas.

Niti sijem, niti žanjem,
Niti predem,
Tebe poslušah, Bogo,
Sad Ti pobrini se za me.
Izležavam se do podne.
Danju unaokolo cunjam, gluvarim,
Noću nad rukopisima il po barovima
Dreždim, krvarim.
Ujutru stajem na hladan pod srca
Tvog sina, tvog čeda.
Njušim njegovo međunožje
Kao keruša svoje male.
Jer, Ti kaza:
Sve što hoćete da vama čine ljudi,
Činite i vi tako njima.
Al šutnu me taj čova,
Istrese me ko pesak iz sandale.

Više mi ništa ne ide od ruke —
Uska vrata, tesan put.
Ne bulji u mene, Bogo,
Ne drži me zemljina teža,
Nacvrcana sam, gubim korak,
Ulica mi je sve krivlja,
Kuća sve dalja,
Pruži ruku, pruži prst,
Ko luču, ne ko prut.

Život cvili kao usna harmonika,
Daleko sam zabasala.
Ne razlikujem više vrste ptica,
Biljaka, drveća, strane sveta,
Rečne od morskih riba,
Izvor od ušća.
Snove po kojima gacam
Od ulice kojom njišem kukovima.

Više puta voleh zauvek,
Moje srce beše vrela ringla,
Sad je vrč razbijen.
Seks neuprljan ljubavlju,
Moja je deviza.
Sve druge želje stresoh
Ko kišne kapi sa kaputa.
Gospodi pomiluj!
Pevam o duši utopljenoj,
Koju ne mogu na obalu izvući.
Kao obešena divljač vise moje ruke.
Pomozi! Izbavi!
Daj mi — usta na usta!

Voleh gorka pića, žestoke momke,
I koješta još,
Priznajem Ti, Bogo,
Ne mimoiđe me nijedan greh.
Kao Tvoje telo,
Moje srce je jastučić za igle.

Sorry, Gospode,
Nisam ja ni Marta ni Marija Magdalena.
Tvoj sam ispljuvak, tvoja slina.
Sad, sve stavi na kantar.
Ne priteži i ne zakidaj.
Odreži!
Obnevidi mi srce, liši me vida.
Patiti i platiti.
Gospodi pomiluj!