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© 2013 Grace Cavalieri

Charles Simic

This conversation with Charles Simic was his first interview as Poet Laureate of the United States. He is interviewed at the Library of Congress by Grace Cavalieri, producer/host of "The Poet and The Poem." This program marks its 31st consecutive year on public radio.

GC: Charles Simic was born in Yugoslavia on May 9, 1938. His childhood was complicated by the events of World War II. He moved to Paris with his mother when he was 15; a year later, they joined his father in New York and then moved to Oak Park, a suburb of Chicago, where he graduated from the same high school as Ernest Hemingway. Simic attended the University of Chicago, working nights in an office at the Chicago Sun Times, but was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1961 and served until 1963. He earned his bachelor's degree from New York University in 1966. From 1966 to 1974 he wrote and translated poetry, and he also worked as an editorial assistant for Aperture, a photography magazine. He married fashion designer Helen Dubin in 1964. They have two children. He has been a U.S. citizen since 1971 and lives in Strafford, N.H. Our Poet Laureate Charles Simic says hello with an opening poem.

CS: It's very nice to be here. Here is a poem called Grey Headed School Children.

Old men have bad dreams,
So they sleep little.
They walk on bare feet
Without turning on the lights,
Or they stand leaning
On gloomy furniture
Listening to their hearts beat.

The one window across the room
Is black like a blackboard.
Every old man is alone
In this classroom, squinting
At that fine chalk line
That divides being-here
From being-here-no-more.

No matter. It was a glass of water
They were going to get,
But not just yet.
They listen for mice in the walls,
A car passing on the street,
Their dead fathers shuffling past them
On their way to the kitchen.

GC: The people that know your work, are passionate. This office you hold now gives you a different world. How would you advise these new readers to approach your work? If you have to give advice, how do we get to know you?

CS: Well I mean, read the poems without and kind of preconceived notions. The biggest compliment that I've gotten over the years, giving public readings, after the reading, some fellow would come, or some woman would come and look at me kind of puzzled, and she'd say, "Mr. Simic, what you read, was that poetry?" And I'd say, "Yes", and then they would say, "I was kind of astonished; but you know, I understood everything." That pleased me to no end.

GC: I believe that your poems are folktales of a sort. Folktales from another planet, maybe, but they are original and certainly accessible. Well, we have you here for an hour, and we're going to go into your work a little bit. Let me tell who you are. You were born in Belgrade Yugoslavia, and you had quite a childhood. I recommend that people read, A Fly in the Soup. If they read your memoirs, your poems...all of the things are there … the irony, the absurdity, the tragedy, the humor. That is the bedrock for your poems. You started publishing in '59, when you were twenty one. You were drafted in the army in '61, and there are some hilarious episodes in your book about that. You got your undergraduate degree from NYU, working at night to cover tuition. So we'll go into more after another poem.

CS: Well, let's see. Let me read...here is a poem; a very, very early poem. I was astonished the other day thinking about it, that this poem was written fifty years ago. And I lived in New York City, in seedy hotels, furnished rooms - a lonely kid. I didn't have that many friends; I didn't have any money. I mean, I made ends meet. I didn't have a cat, or a dog, or a goldfish, but I had a lot of mice, and rats and cockroaches. This is a poem called Cockroach.

When I see a cockroach,
I don't grow violent like you,
I stop as if a friendly greeting
Had passed between us.
*
This roach is familiar to me.
We met here and there,
In the kitchen at midnight,
And now under my pillow.
*
I can see it has a couple
Of my black hairs
Sticking out of its head,
And who knows what else?
*
It carries false papers –
Don't ask me how I know.
False papers, yes,
With my greasy thumbprint.

GC: The false papers really hark back. When you were a child, the papers were very important, for getting freedom from Yugoslavia. The communists thought you were fascists; the right wing thought you were communists. You had a horrendous departure, and when I see "false papers," I think images from that.

CS: Sure. We were displaced persons after the war ended. We left Yugoslavia, and we ended up in France. To get visas, to get a permit to remain in France, you had to go every three months to stand in huge lines to have it renewed, the residency permit. It was insane; because they would always request some additional document, like for example the high school graduation diploma or whatever, of my grandmother. So, it was total panic to try to get it from Yugoslavia, then to translate it. Then when you showed up with this document, they didn't need it anymore.

GC: But here it comes up all fifty years later, and we're still reading about false papers, but now it's attributed to a cockroach. So nothing is lost

CS: Well, okay, this is now something totally different. It's a poem that takes place in New Hampshire, where I have lived now for thirty five years. And it's a small mill town - the year probably 1970. All the businesses are going out of business. All the mills are closing. Bleak place. And I don't think I need to explain the poem more. The Partial Explanation.

Seems like a long time
Since the winter took my order.
Grimy little luncheonette,
The snow falling outside.

Seems like it has grown darker
Since I last heard the kitchen door
Behind my back
Since I last noticed
Anyone pass on the street.

A glass of ice-water
Keeps me company
At this table I chose myself
Upon entering.

And a longing,
Incredible longing
To eavesdrop
On the conversation
Of cooks.

GC: Do you think that the cadence of your voice could not be otherwise if you had not had another language, and other languages, first? The image may be is from your soul, but the particular cadence I think is benefited by being screened through another language, the way you curl the words.

CS: I mean inevitably - I'm not conscious of this, but obviously, that would be inevitable.

GC: I'm never comfortable when people talk about your poetry as "surreal".

CS: Well I mean people have to give you a label.When you're young, you get a label. We were surrealist. Mark Strand and Jim Tate, and a few others were called surrealists. Indeed we had some interesting surrealism forty five years ago, but...

GC: It's not precise enough though.

CS: No, no. I'm also a hard realist. I'm not interested in... Surrealism always implies something irrational. Even then, we liked reading the French, and South American and Spanish surrealists, but we knew this was a movement that, by then in 1960, was forty years old, so we're not going to be something forty years later. It's like somebody deciding to be a cubist today. But the label stuck, which means they can't quite classify me, because I have – you heard that poem about that mailman's son who came in the coffin. I mean, that's just grim realism.

GC: And beer cans on the end of a hearse, which is not a wedding – but there is always an intrinsic logic in your poems, because the syntax is always perfect. So no matter what happens that is other world, it holds together. But I never can figure out your last lines. I can never guess what you're going to do. That last line of yours, you will always go the opposite direction.

CS: I think it surprises me too. You don't, as you're working on a poem, you don't know what the last line is going to be. And probably there are many, many other last lines that were there before, and you realize it just doesn't work, and suddenly….

GC: You only like what surprises you, and it takes a lot to surprise you!

CS: Well, you know, it's nice when you're surprised. You say, my God, how good!

GC: Well, you're mother said you're going to get everything new in America, and you did. Give us an example of a poem with its source.

CS: A poem that I wrote after watching the History Channel, and seeing - it was a part of some WWII documentary - just maybe fifty seconds, of the bombing of Belgrade in April of 1941. I was there. I was three years old and I remember the bombs. And I had seen this little segment before, but to my great surprise, there was some additional footage. There was a little bit more than what I had seen before, and what it shows, it shows a crowd of people on a street corner. It turned out, I realized, this was a street corner not to far from where I lived. So that's where the poem Cameo Appearance began.

GC: That's what we call collateral damage

CS: That's what we call "collateral damage."

GC: And you were right there. And from there, your adventures, horrifying, become hilarious; the child who finds the German body, and gets the helmet full of lice, head lice. The child who gets in a jail cell; the child up on the mountain at night alone – is this a proper beginning for a Poet Laureate? Would you recommend this upbringing?

CS: Well, I mean no, certainly not.

GC: Selling gunpowder?

CS: You know how it is. You only have one life. You don't choose it. When things happen that way, I didn't complain. Kids in a big city in war time actually have a good time, because the parents are busy worrying about those sorts of things, and you are playing on the streets, and the streets are incredibly interesting. Parental supervision is minimal. So, everyone I knew from those days, later, who remember those days, all had a terrific time.

GC: Climbing the ruins, falling off the ruins.

CS: It's a terrible thing. But I was six, seven years old.

GC: But you said you were filled with guilt and anxiety at every moment. That's good for a poet. And also you became an expert liar. That's good for a poet.

CS: That's very good for a poet. Anxiety, not so much - yes guilt, in a sense that I was always doing something I shouldn't have been doing.

GC: Now doing something you should be doing today. You served at the University of New Hampshire for - what is it, thirty five years?

CS: Something like that.

GC: And you're Emeritus now. Do you teach a course at all?

CS: I teach one course, one semester. Just a workshop. A poetry workshop. I like teaching I like teaching

GC: And what is the title of this book in your hand?

CS: This is The Voice at Three A.M. This is selected late and new poems.
This is a poem called Ghosts.

It's Mr. Brown looking much better
Than he did in the morgue.
He's brought me a huge carp
In a bloodstained newspaper.
What an odd visit.
I haven't thought of him in years.

Linda is with him and so is Sue.
Two pale and elegant fading memories
Holding each other by the hand.
Even their lipstick is fresh
Despite all the scientific proofs
To the contrary.

Is Linda going to cook the fish?
She turns and gazes in the direction
Of the kitchen while Sue
Continues to watch me mournfully.
I don't believe any of it,
And still I'm scared stiff.

I know of no way to respond,
So I do nothing.
The windows are open. The air's thick
With the scent of magnolias.
Drops of evening rain are dripping
From the dark and heavy leaves.
I take a deep breath; I close my eyes.

GC: Charles Simic has been through a life that was not subtle. I can say, it was never a subtle life. But yet, it appears as if even in your poetry, you were sort of a hapless bystander of this absurd existence, and you say in the army that you're idea of happiness was nothingness; that your idea of bliss was boredom; that you wanted nothing to happen.

CS: "Nothing" would happen occasionally. I was stationed in France. This was 1962, and we used to have these sort of maneuvers because they were expecting the war to start; the Warsaw Pact armies to invade and the next world war is starting. So every couple of months they would have a big maneuver, where we'd have to leave our base and get in trucks and jeeps and go off to various positions, and I was a military policeman, so I used to direct traffic. And occasionally your little unit would be sent someplace, and then they forget about you. This was place we would just sit there, and nobody's calling us, nobody's telling us anything to do. Perfect. Paradise.

GC: But then, somebody said that you'd be perfect for the NYPD when you get got out of the army. Can you imagine yourself in the New York Police Department?

CS: You know, actually I have imagined that. I have imagined it. I had a couple of friends in the army who, their parents were army and their fathers were cops, and they just told me, "Charlie, you'd love it."

GC: Harking back to what is gone; I was touched by the story about Richard Hugo, who was, we should tell our audience, a fine poet. And when he became your friend, we found that he had been one of the airplanes strafing your village.

CS: Bombing the city. This was 1944. The allies were bombing Belgrade. They were supposed to be bombing the Nazis in Belgrade. They flew from Italy, and their first targets were the oil fields in Romania, which were the last oil fields that the Nazis held. Greatly defended, and very dangerous, so they would lose a couple planes. So on the way back, they were supposed to drop what they had left in Belgrade. They flew high; they were in a rush to get back to Bari and go to the beach. And so, they didn't hit too many strategically important objects. Some, but mostly what happens usually with bombs, is they will hit a slum. So, I met - bumped into Hugo in San Francisco in a restaurant, and we were talking, and he said, "What did you do this summer?" And this is 1972, and this is the first time I went back to Belgrade, and I said, "Well, I went back to Belgrade." "Ah," he says, "Belgrade!" And he started describing Belgrade. He says, "Here's the Danube; here's the Sava River, here's the main train station, here's this bridge, that bridge." So I had no idea how he knew. So I said, "You've been there. You've visited Belgrade." And he said, "No, never in my life. I used to bomb it two, three times a week." So then I just exclaimed - blurted out, I said, "I was down there!" And he was very upset. He was very, very upset.

GC: Of course. It's one of those amazing little things. And you became friends.

CS: Yeah. I mean, I understood it was wartime; bombs fall on your head.

GC: But there he is looking at you.

CS: He wrote me a poem, he was apologetic. It troubled him a great deal.

GC: Well, I would recommend that people read A Fly in the Soup. I think that came out in 2000, and it's been out like, every year since then; 2002, 2003. But also, the poems that are prose poems won the Pulitzer, The World Doesn't End, but, those prose poems - they're so good you wonder how people noticed it. They're so good, you think no committee had the sense to know they should win the Pulitzer Prize, they are so astonishingly original.

CS: Yeah, it was a shocking surprise the day that they actually did. I first wanted to publish these poems with a smaller publisher, but I'm obliged to show it to Harcourt to before I do. I thought they were going to pass on it, but they said no, we like it, we'll publish it. Then to get a Pulitzer was really...

GC: You know, those are the poems written when you think nobody's watching, and nothing's at stake, and you're not trying to win a prize I just love entering that world where you just don't give a damn.

CS: That book keeps selling. It's a kind of a fun book to read.

GC: You've published numerous translations; French, Serbian, Croatian, Slovenian. Are you able to converse in those languages, or do you take the literal, and then transform it to poetry? Or do you really know Macedonian?

CS: Macedonian I can read. The only language of those languages I cannot read is Slovenian; I had help. But Serbian and Croatian are very similar. It used to be one language, Serbian and Croatian. All that is easy to understand.
All that is easy to understand.

GC: Have you written every day of your adult life.

CS: I don't think so, but I do write quite a few essays and prose pieces, all sorts of things.

GC: In one essay you say ' But what if poets are not crazy?' What if! I never thought of that. You say 'poets convey the historical period better than anyone else. ..that lyric poets perpetuate the oldest values on earth .' I would say all poets do, because we're all classicists of one sort or another. And you say everything in the world profane or sacred needs to be reexamined repeatedly in the light of one's own experiences. One's own opinion.

CS: That's kind of a radical view. Well, I mean it is. If you look at poems of Emily Dickenson; the one about hearing a fly buzz just as she was about to die – the speaker in the poem. Allen Tate, a great American poet, wrote about Emily Dickenson, and he said, if her puritan ancestors had read that poem and other poems, they would have burnt her at the stake, because in the poem somebody is dying, and instead of seeing God, she sees a fly – a fly comes and starts annoying her and buzzing around the dying person. It's a very blasphemous poem. Tate was very clear about that, that Cotton Mather and the other divines of the puritan church wouldn't think this is so funny.

GC: So every poet is an anarchist.

CS: Yeah, I mean look at Walt Whitman.

GC: Well, point of view is a pretty hairy thing. We talked about his when I interviewed you once, twenty five years ago, and I just didn't know if I'd get another chance. Twenty five years doesn't seem like a long time, does it? It snapped right by

CS: It did

GC: When you went to Chicago as a young man, and you started getting in with the literary crowd there, you were told to be careful of the eastern literary establishment. Were you? Are you careful?

CS: Well, now I'm probably part of that establishment.

GC: Now you own it.

CS: But it really helped to be sort of – to have that warning when I was young. Nelson Algren, the novelist, used to tell me, "Don't read Robert Lowell, don't read all these Harvard professors; Yale professors. You're a kid off the boat. Read Carl Sandburg, Rachel Lindsay, Walt Whitman." It was good advice.

GC: You talk about a kid off the boat. When you look at that kid, from the perspective of the man you are now, do you love him?

CS: The kid?

GC: You call him a bum. "A little bum," you call him in the book.

CS: I don't think about him.

GC: But you wrote the book about him.

CS: I did; I did.

GC: So therefore we have a different person writing about a different person

CS: Well I felt compassion for him. Compassion for an earlier self; I mean, I realize how innocent I was; how shy.

GC: Anonymous, you said.

CS: Anonymous, and like a character in a book. And as I remembered myself, I always remember what this character did. Yes, there was an affection.

GC: It's clear, because we couldn't love him if you didn't. And from that book, you just want to hug that little kid. On the bus in Paris, going to the hospital with an ear infection – one of my favorite scenes – and the rouged ladies are looking down their noses at you, as if, and here's the line, "As if they knew there was a little kid with an earful of pus." I wish they could see you now.

CS: We came from Communist Yugoslavia. There are photographs of us in Paris, and we really look just…like derelicts; like something from the Bowery, my mother and I, and my brother, and we thought, this is our best clothes that we were wearing. We didn't think that we were poorly dressed, but now looking at us, it's just…they see us and they know we are immigrants; we're God knows where from.

GC: And then the doctors didn't believe you had come there legitimately, and gave you a hard time.

CS: The doctor was a leftist, and he was shocked that we would leave paradise.

GC: A beautiful place like Yugoslavia.

CS: Paradise! A country that's going to glorious future, to come to the rotten west, and to go to capitalist America.

GC: Well that is just one of the many memories I carry with me from that book; that little kid who found his way across the ocean and met up with his father. This is going to be a crazy question, but I know you'll answer it. If you had a choice of coming through your mother and father; say you really did – humor me and say you chose them to come through- that father and that mother, to come through them. Why did you do that? What qualities did they each have that you feel furthered you.

CS: My father was a very smart man; intellectually inquisitive. He read all sorts of books on all sorts of subjects. He was a gregarious, friendly man. He loved going out every night; jazz clubs, restaurants. He loved life. My mother was a professor of music. She taught singing, opera singing, so there was a culture that came with her – her students. I was listening to opera all my life. She was more timid, reserved; more frightened of the world. But she had very clear political judgments, surprisingly. My father occasionally would be carried away by some cause, some idea. And she never was. And we kind of were upset with her because she would always seem to say, "Ah, forget it," you know, the people behind it, and so forth. She would always reserve her judgment and annoy us. But in the long run, now over 80 years, she proved to be absolutely right in all her historical and political judgments. And that's admirable. She was a courageous woman, despite this kind of timidity and reserve. She took my brother and me, and since we couldn't get a passport in 1948, we crossed the border illegally into Austria. But we didn't make it every day. The British took us back – brought us back. It's a complicated story. Two nights…

GC: The Americans got you through at some point. So you feel that you can feel evidence from both of your parents in your life's work?

CS: I think so. Definitely.

GC: I think of your mother dragging you across mountains, and through countries.

CS: Okay, let's see. There's a poem here. This is me talking about mother. Evening Walk.

You give the appearance of listening
To my thoughts, O trees,
Bent over the road I am walking
On a late summer evening
When every one of you is a steep staircase
The night is slowly descending.

The high leaves like my mother's lips
Forever trembling, unable to decide,
For there's a bit of wind,
And it's like hearing voices,
Or a mouth full of muffled laughter,
A huge dark mouth we can all fit in
Suddenly, covered by a hand.

Everything quiet. Light
Of some other evening strolling ahead,
Long-ago evening of silk dresses,
Bare feet, hair unpinned and falling.
Happy heart, what heavy steps you to take
As you follow after them in the shadows.

The sky at the road's end cloudless and blue
The night birds like children
Who won't come to dinner.
Lost children in the darkening woods.

GC: "Heartbreaking announcements," that's another thing you said about poetry. " Heartbreaking announcements."

CS: I'm always surprised when I hear these things quoted. I mean, I write them, and then I forget about them.

GC: That's why we're supposed to pick them up. How do you teach students?

CS: If you teach creative writing, it depends what level it is; if it's a beginning level or advanced level. In the beginning level, they've selected, they already have written something, and then you make them read a lot of things, and you make them learn some things on prosody technique of poetry. You go over their poems together with them in class, and teach them how to revise, which is one of the hardest things to know, and to like, tinkering with poems, and revising poems. In the process, hopefully they get in touch with their imagination or with that something in themselves that makes them want to write poetry, and sometimes you sort of see this. In fact, most often you see it over a period of a couple of semesters, how they've discovered a part of themselves that they don't use ordinarily, or they're not in touch with, from which imagination comes, poetry comes, and certain kinds of ideas.

GC: In the first declaration of your poems, and how they're presented, I could see very much the film noir influence in your work.

CS: Yeah, I love those movies.

GC: Are there films to love that way today that influence you?

CS: I think movies in general have influenced me. I continue to see a lot of movies, old and new; images. I love movie imagery. Not so much, I would think, of plots, but…

GC: When you moved – when you came into your first sight of New York – the skyline – and you said the first thing about Manhattan is it looked just like the movies you saw of it.

CS: It did! Well, we saw a lot of movies. I think the first American movies that I saw I was when I was maybe four or five years old. My grandmother used to take me to a theater where they showed silent comedies; Keeton and Chaplin, and Fatty Arbuckle. And we just watched American movies; westerns, and I remember seeing Wizard of Oz during the second war, sitting in the audience with Nazi soldiers. So, it was a very strange time. And when the noirs came after the Second World War, a lot of them have the feel of big cities; New York and others. So, yes.

GC: And also, you have always said that poets can learn more from painters and musicians than other poets sometimes. What of your own paintings? Whatever happened to them? Are you still doing that?

CS: No. I stopped after I was about thirty years old.

GC: Where are they?

CS: A couple of them are in a show in New York right now. Someone got together paintings by writers and poets. It's in a gallery in Manhattan, on 65th street.

GC: If people get the book, A Fly in the Soup – there are some pictures of your paintings in the middle.

CS: This is just from My Noiseless Entourage. And, I noticed a few years ago that when I dream about my childhood, and that's not very often, but my dreams have the sort of the look of old film noirs; the imagery, the black and white grainy feel. It's like those movies. So, this little poem is called To Dreams.

I'm still living at all the old addresses,
Wearing dark glasses even indoors,
On the hush-hush sharing my bed
With phantoms, visiting the kitchen.

After midnight to check the faucet.
I'm late for school, and when I get there
No one seems to recognize me.
I sit disowned, sequestered and withdrawn.

These small shops open only at night
Where I make my unobtrusive purchases,
These back-door movie houses in seedy neighborhoods
Still showing grainy films of my life.

The hero always full of extravagant hope
Losing it all in the end? – whatever it was –
Then walking out into the cold, disbelieving light
Waiting close-lipped at the exit.

GC: But how do you begin a poem? You say you are an insomniac. I do feel the effect of silence and solitude in your work. Does the image come first? Do you daydream into it? I know you capture your dreams, but – so it's three o'clock in the morning, you even have poems about three o'clock in the morning. What comes first?

CS: It's always different. Sometimes it's an image; it's a mood. Like in this poem that I just read, the connection in dreams being like old movies – B movies from the 1940's – and then you kind of seek some images in your head. There's no way to really easily generalize how poems get started. Often they will develop out of drafts. I have folders and folders and notebooks full of drafts; poems that I've started, and I give up on. I look them over from time to time, and suddenly something interests me, or I notice that there are two drafts that I made of totally different poems, years apart, can be combined into something else.

GC: But they're never really idea driven. I mean, imagery driven, they're feelings; there are all kinds of cinematic devices, but I never get the feeling, this is an idea I'm going to convey.

CS: No, I think most poets are like that.

GC: Oh no. I think a lot start with ideas - many of them; Anthony Hecht. I'm thinking of a lot of poets that have an idea; even James Dickey in the beginning.

CS: I mean, I don't have that. If I had an idea, I would write down the idea, but I discover ideas in the process of thinking about an experience, thinking about some images. Ideas are what emerge in the process of writing the poem.

GC: That's why you get commentaries like this, from the Harvard Review, "There are few poets writing in America today, who share his lavish appetite for the bizarre, his inexhaustible repertoire of indelible characters and gestures. Simic is perhaps our most disquieting muse. I think our most enduring muse," because, I think you give license to everyone who has a wish to express something. You are non-judgmental.You have high standards for poetry, but I think you truly believe that there's equity that each is allowed to express.

CS: I believe that.

CS: I believe that everything is worth looking at; everything deserves respect, even the little bug walking across the table. You look at it and you say, "Well, it's obviously in a hurry. It's going someplace; on an errand; very important."

GC: You've given rats and cockroaches and pigs' ears a new look.

CS: Now, a poem called Unmade Beds. This is like checking out of motel or a hotel, and you go by, and you see all these rooms that have doors that are opened, and they've been vacated, and the beds are unmade. You kind of glimpse and you have an idea. Unmade Beds.

They like shady rooms
Peeling wallpaper,
Cracks on the ceiling,
Flies on the pillow.

If you are tempted to lie down,
Don't be surprised,
You won't mind the dirty sheets,
The rasp of rusty springs
As you make yourself comfy.
The room is a darkened movie theater
Where a grainy,
Black-and-white film is being shown.

A blur of disrobed bodies
In the moment of sweet indolence
That follows lovemaking,
When the meanest of hearts
Comes to believe
Happiness can last forever.

CS: History

On a gray evening
Of a gray century,
I ate an apple
While no one was looking.

A small, sour apple
The color of wood fire
Which I first wiped
On my sleeve.

Then I stretched my legs
As far as they'd go,
Said to myself
Why not close my eyes now.

Before the late
World News and Weather.

GC: As you leave us, how about the candy poem, the sweetness of candy, in the candy store of death.

CS: Yeah, I know which one you want. The title is Sweetest.

Little candy in death's candy shop,
I gave your sugar a lick
When no one was looking,
Took you for a ride on my tongue
To all the secret places,

Trying to appear above suspicion
As I went about inspecting the confectionary,
Greeting the owner with a nod
With you safely tucked away
And melting to nothing in my mouth.

GC: Charles Simic. I hope the world gives you a big feast, and then a bowl of figs afterwards.

Acknowledgement: The Poet Laureate Office of the Library of Congress

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The program is produced by Forest Woods Media Productions. Post Production is by Mike Turpin, M.E.T. Studios. We wish thank the Library of Congress for its support and assistance. Our associate Producer is Kenneth Flynn. Our engineer is Mike Turpin. I’m Grace Cavalieri.