Wednesday, August 9, 2017

"There Is" ... A Louis Simpson poem

I've been a fan of Louis Simpson's poems since 1984 when I read him in The Kenyan Review. I wrote him a fan letter in the 1990s. He never responded. Oh well. 

There Is

Look! From my window there’s a view  
of city streets 
where only lives as dry as tortoises  
can crawl—the Gallapagos of desire. 

There is the day of Negroes with red hair 
and the day of insane women on the subway;  
there is the day of the word Trieste 
and the night of the blind man with the electric guitar. 

But I have no profession. Like a spy 
I read the papers—Situations Wanted.  
Surely there is a secret 
which, if I knew it, would change everything! 

I have the poor man’s nerve-tic, irony. 
I see through the illusions of the age! 
The bell tolls, and the hearse advances, 
and the mourners follow, for my entertainment. 

I tread the burning pavement, 
the streets where drunkards stretch  
like photographs of civil death 
and trumpets strangle in electric shelves. 

The mannequins stare at me scornfully.  
I know they are pretending 
all day to be in earnest. 
And can it be that love is an illusion? 

When darkness falls on the enormous street  
the air is filled with Eros, whispering.  
Eyes, mouths, contrive to meet 
in silence, fearing they may be prevented. 

O businessmen like ruins,  
bankers who are Bastilles, 
widows, sadder than the shores of lakes, 
then you were happy, when you still could tremble! 

But all night long my window 
sheds tears of light. 
I seek the word. The word is not forthcoming.  
O syllables of light ... O dark cathedral ...
Louis Simpson, “There Is” from The Owner of the House: New Collected Poems 1940-2001. Boa. Copyright © 2003 by Louis Simpson. 

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