That Little Something

by Charles Simic

That Little Something is the superb eighteenth collection from one of America's most vital and honored poets, Charles Simic. Over the course of his singular career, Simic has won nearly every accolade including the Pulitzer Prize, and recently served as the poet laureate of the United States from 2007 to 2008. His wry humor and darkly illuminating vision are on full display here as he moves closer to the dark ironies of history and human experience. Simic understands the strange interplay between the ordinary and the odd, between reality and imagination. A profoundly stunning collection from "not only one of the most prolific but also one of the most distinctive, accessible, and enjoyable" (The New York Times Book Review) poetic voices.

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN-13/ EAN: 9780156035392
  • ISBN-10: 0156035391
  • Pages: 96
  • Publication Date: 04/17/2009
  • Carton Quantity: 48
About the Book
About the Author
Excerpts
  • About the Book
    That Little Something is the superb eighteenth collection from one of America’s most vital and honored poets. Over the course of his singular career, Charles Simic has won nearly every accolade, including the Pulitzer Prize, and he served as the poet laureate of the United States from 2007 to 2008.His wry humor and darkly illuminating vision are on full display here as he moves close to the dark ironies of history and human experience. Simic understands the strange interplay between the ordinary and the odd, between reality and imagination. That Little Something is a stunning collection from "not only one of the most prolific poets but also one of the most distinctive, accessible, and enjoyable" (New York Times Book Review).

    Subjects

  • About the Author
  • Excerpts

    I

    WALKING

    I never run into anyone from the old days.

    It’s summer and I’m alone in the city.

    I enter stores, apartment houses, offices

    And find nothing remotely familiar.

     

    The trees in the park—were they always so big?

    And the birds so hidden, so quiet?

    Where is the bus that passed this way?

    Where are the greengrocers and hairdressers,

     

    And that schoolhouse with the red fence?

    Miss Harding is probably still at her desk,

    Sighing as she grades papers late into the night.

    The bummer is, I can’t find the street.

     

    All I can do is make another tour of the neighborhood,

    Hoping I’ll meet someone to show me the way

    And a place to sleep, since I’ve no return ticket

    To wherever it is I came from earlier this evening.

     

    THAT LITTLE SOMETHING

    for Li-Young Lee

    The likelihood of ever finding it is small.

    It’s like being accosted by a woman

    And asked to help her look for a pearl

    She lost right here in the street.

     

    She could be making it all up,

    Even her tears, you say to yourself,

    As you search under your feet,

    Thinking, Not in a million years . . .

     

    It’s one of those summer afternoons

    When one needs a good excuse

    To step out of a cool shade.

    In the meantime, what ever became of her?

     

    And why, years later, do you still,

    Off and on, cast your eyes to the ground

    As you hurry to some appointment

    Where you are now certain to arrive late?

     

    THE ELEVATOR IS OUT OF ORDER

    Grandmothers and their caged birds

    Must be trembling with fear

    As you climb with heavy steps,

    Stopping at each floor to take a rest.

     

    A monkey dressed in baby clothes,

    Who belonged to an opera singer,

    Once lived here and so did a doctor

    Who peddled drugs to wealthy customers.

     

    The one who let you feel her breasts

    Vanished upstairs. The name is not familiar,

    But the scratches of her nails are.

    The bell rings, but no one comes to open the door.

     

    That old man, with a face powdered white,

    You caught peeking out of a door,

    Whom did he expect to see if not you,

    All frazzled and descending in a hurry?

     

    NIGHT CLERK IN A ROACH HOTEL

    I’m the furtive inspector of dimly lit corridors,

    Dead light bulbs and red exit signs,

    Doors that show traces

    Of numerous attempts at violent entry,

     

    Is that the sound of a maid making a bed at midnight?

    The rustle of counterfeit bills

    Being counted in the wedding suite?

    A fine-tooth comb passing through a head of gray hair?

     

    Eternity is a mirror and a spider web,

    Someone wrote with lipstick in the elevator.

    I better get the passkey and see for myself.

    I better bring along a book of matches too.

     

    SOUVENIRS OF HELL

    Empty beer cans tied to an old model car.

    A small circus tent in a parking lot.

    Sparrows chirping in rows of trees

    That have never known leaves.

     

    The stores on Main Street were boarded up,

    Except for a brightly lit tattoo parlor.

    Persephone’s daughters on show

    With orange hair and spiked collars.

     

    You wish to know about the fires?

    We saw mills the color of dried blood

    Half-shadowed, half-lit by the setting sun,

    Their many windows mostly broken.

     

    The drunk who asked for spare change,

    Wanted to tell us about his time in prison,

    But with Satan’s palace still to see,

    We left him right there with his mouth open.

     

    DRAMATIC EVENINGS

    You take turns being yourself,

    Being someone else,

    Addressing mirrors, airing your grievances

    To a goldfish in a bowl.

    Your Queen Gertrude and Ophelia

    Are snoring away across town.

    Your father’s ghost is in the bathroom

    Reading Secret Life of Nuns,

     

    While you pace back and forth

    Clenching and unclenching your fists,

    As if planning a murder,

    Or more likely your own crucifixion.

    Or you stand frozen still

    As if an idea so obvious, so grand

    Has come to you

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