In honor of Charles Simic’s upcoming visit to Rollins College for the Winter With the Writers Literary Festival, I’m posting two of my favorite poems he’s written. The first, “Lingering Ghosts” is from New And Selected Poems (2012) and the second “My guardian angel is afraid of the dark” is from The World Doesn’t End (1989).
Give me a long dark night and no sleep,
And I’ll visit every place I have ever lived,
Starting with the house where I was born.
I’ll sit in my parents’ dimmed bedroom
Straining to hear the tick of their clock.
I’ll roam the old neighborhood hunting for friends,
Enter junk-filled backyards where trees
Look like war cripples on crutches,
Stop by a tree stump where Grandma
Made roosters and hens walk around headless.
A black cat will slip out of the shadows
And rub herself against my leg
To let me know she’ll be my guide tonight
On this street with its missing buildings,
Missing faces and few lingering ghosts.
My guardian angel is afraid of the dark. He pretends he’s not, sends me ahead, tells me he’ll be along in a moment. Pretty soon I can’t see a thing. “This must be the darkest corner of heaven,” someone whispers behind my back. It turns out her guardian angel is missing too. “It’s an outrage,” I tell her. “The dirty little cowards leaving us all alone,” she whispers. And of course, for all we know, I might be a hundred years old already, and she just a sleepy little girl with glasses.
You can read more of Simic’s work here.
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