Charles Simic


This strange thing must have crept
Right out of hell.
It resembles a bird's foot
Worn around the cannibal's neck.
As you hold it in your hand,
As you stab with it into a piece of meat,
It is possible to imagine the rest of the bird:
Its head which like your fist
Is large, bald, beakless and blind.

Animal Acts

A bear who eats with a silver spoon.
Two apes adept at grave-digging.
Rats who do calculus.
A police dog who copulates with a woman,
Who takes undertaker's measurements.

A bedbug who suffers, who has doubts
About his existence.  The miraculous
Laughing dove.  A thousand-year-old turtle
Playing billiards.  A chicken who
Cuts his own throat, who bleeds.

The trainer with his sugar-cubes,
With his chair and whip.  The evenings
When they all huddle in a cage,
Smoking cheap cigars, lazily
Marking the cards in the new deck.

Harsh Climate

The brain itself in its skull
Is very cold,
According to
Albertus Magnus.

Something like a stretch of tundra
On the scale of the universe.
Galactic wind.
Lofty icebergs in the distance.

Polar night.
A large ocean liner caught in the ice.
A few lights still burning on the deck.
Silence and fierce cold.

Bestiary for the Fingers of My Right Hand

Thumb, loose tooth of a horse.
Rooster to his hens.
Horn of a devil.  Fat worm
They have attached to my flesh
At the time of my birth.
It takes four to hold him down,
Bend him in half, until the bone
Begins to whimper.
Cut him off.  He can take care
Of himself.  Take root in the earth,
Or go hunting with wolves.

The second points the way.
True way.  The path crosses the earth,
The moon and some stars.
Watch, he points further.
He points to himself.

The middle one has backache.
Stiff, still unaccustomed to this life:
An old man at birth.  It's about something
That he had and lost,
That he looks for within my hand,
The way a dog looks
For fleas
With a sharp tooth.

The fourth is mystery.
Sometimes as my hand
Rests on the table
He jumps by himself
As though someone called his name.

After each bone, finger,
I come to him, troubled.

Something stirs in the fifth
Something perpetually at the point
Of birth.  Weak and submissive,
His touch is gentle.
It weighs a tear.
It takes the mote out of the eye.