? ?
The Little Review
Making No Compromises With the Public Taste
Poem for Monday 
Monday, 21st July 2008 12:54 am

St. Thomas Aquinas
By 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.


From Poet's Choice in Sunday's Washington Post Book World. "I once heard Charles Simic, who finished his term as the nation's poet laureate this month, tell a story about his mother in the war-ravaged Yugoslavia of his youth. Bartering with a gold-toothed gypsy, she swapped his father's tuxedo for a suckling pig they ate on Christmas," writes Mary Karr. "The anecdote embodies for me Simic's genius: juxtaposition. Not the easy surrealism of two random things (fish and bicycle, say), but the binding together of Manichaean opposites: tuxedo and pig. As an emigré, he also blends an American's confidence in the future with an Eastern European's wary knowledge of the past. In 'St. Thomas Aquinas,' he starts by binding philosophy to day labor in a poem whose logic is a mockery of logic...the men are black and white, joined by the sleeves of a flaming red dress -- their love and desire nobly enacted through petty theft. This talent for melding opposites also makes Simic the perfect poet for a country engaged in a bloody war."

We spent younger son's birthday at Anasazi and Navajo sites, exploring Capitol Reef National Park and visiting Goblin Valley State Park, all of which are stunning. In between, we drove up and down mountains, past dry rivers and around cows in the road. We started at Anasazi State Park, which has a recreation of parts of the village that once stood on the site as well as excavations and some of the artifacts found there. Then we went to Capitol Reef, where we had lunch near the orchard, where visitors can pick as much fruit as they can eat while in the park and where we saw such formations as the Twin Rocks, the Castle, and the Capitol Dome for which the park is named. The roads follow old stream beds and flood when it rains, which fortunately it did not do.

Unfortunately, the lack of rain until late in the day meant that it was almost 100 degrees when we got to Goblin Valley State Park, where Galaxy Quest's cast went looking for a beryllium sphere and where the rock monster attacked them. The formations are amazing and the trails go right down among them, but we only walked maybe a quarter mile before the heat got to us. Then we drove on to Moab to the campground where we are staying tonight and tomorrow, where the kids went swimming. Before dinner we drove into town for groceries and to take a look at the landscape around Canyonlands and Arches, which we will visit on Monday; there was a big thunderstorm over the snow-covered mountains in the distance, but we only got sprinkled in Moab. Adam wanted cheesecake for his birthday cake, so that's what we had!

Fremont Indian petroglyphs in Capitol Reef National Park, over 1000 years old, depicting the region's bighorn sheep.

This Capitol Reef formation is called the Egyptian Temple because of its resemblance to human-built structures excavated there.

At Anasazi State Park, a recreation of Kayenta masonry...

...and ruins from the original Anasazi buildings on the site.

Cows in the road driving over the mountains. There are warning signs for cow crossing every few miles, and I suspect people must get bored easily in Utah because a lot of those signs had bullet holes through the illustrations of cows.

Goblin Valley State Park. None of the smaller rocks got together to form a rock monster, sadly.

Still, the formations are pretty darned cool-looking!

This structure is called Molly's Castle. I include it in honor of my niece and sister-in-law, both Mollys.

I finally, belatedly saw the Emmy nominations and just want to say that I am delighted for Boston Legal, Shatner, Spader and Bergman, and equally delighted for Pushing Daisies, Lee Pace and Kristin Chenoweth. Well, and I am happy John Adams did so well too, but given HBO's track record of late, I was less worried about that!
little review
This page was loaded Feb 24th 2024, 6:22 pm GMT.