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Charles Simic

Charles Simic, the current US Poet Laureate, received the 1990 Pulitzer Prize for The World Doesn’t End (Harcourt). His collection The Voice at 3:00 A.M. was a finalist for the 2003 National Book Award. His latest collection is My Noiseless Entourage (Harcourt, 2005).


Death of a Worthless Man

Summer 2006 | Essays

There was a time when I thought the Serbs would never get rid of Miloševic. Dictators give the impression of permanence. They convince themselves and the rest of us that they are going to be around forever. “Long live,” their enthusiastic followers keep shouting. Even the night Miloševic was arrested, the crowd of supporters gathered in front of his residence kept assuring reporters that millions who still loved him were about to converge on Belgrade any minute and that the boss would be back in charge in no time at all. I have to admit I was surprised to see him removed so easily. I forgot my history lessons. In the end, arrogance clouds every dictator’s judgment. When you are told daily that you are a god, when even your worst enemies call you an evil genius, even the most suspicious psychopath tends to get careless. Miloševic called for elections that everybody except him knew he was going to lose, and then when he did lose he tried to steal them in the most flagrant manner. It was hard for him to submit to the rule of law after years of corrupting judges and cops. He who changed the constitution and its laws anytime he felt like it was now told that it must be strictly obeyed. No wonder he was outraged. I bet he had plenty of nasty things to say in private about the Serbs, the ungrateful scum who until recently were happy to be led by the nose from one idiotic war to another. If only we could have a book of what dictators have privately said about the masses who adored them, the cult of the Great Leader in every nation might suffer a setback.


Memories of the Future

Summer 2005 | Poetry

There are one or two murderers in any crowd. They do not suspect their destinies yet. Wars are started to make it easy for them To kill that woman pushing a baby carriage. The animals in the zoo don’t hide their worry. They pace their cages or shy [...]

Ghost Ship

Summer 2005 | Poetry

My soul is a ghost ship Set adrift on the seas of eternity. A battered old wreck Even the rats have abandoned, Its one remaining mast Like a cross on a pauper’s grave I hold on to like a drunk, Counting the little white caps As they chase each ot [...]

House of Cards

Summer 2005 | Poetry

I miss you winter evenings With your dim lights. The shut lips of my mother And our held-breaths As we sat at a dining room table. Her long, thin fingers Stacking the cards, Then waiting for them to fall. The sound of boots in the street Making us s [...]

A Life of Fragments

Summer 2005 | Poetry

Like a box of old photographs Some of them already ripped in pieces You found on the dump And helped yourself to a few While the wind swept the rest. It was a cold blue autumn evening As you laid them out on the table In the kitchen and found a face [...]


Big enough for the five of us To put it on At the same time. Bulky, but we manage Our exit. Mr. Landlord, We only require someone to button it For the funeral, to let it open For the wake. Five hands out of a single sleeve, In each a beer [...]

An Address with Exclamation Points

I accused History of gluttony; Happiness of anorexia! History, cruel and mystical, You ate Russia as if it were A pot of white beans cooked with Sausage, smoked ribs and ham hocks! O Happiness, whose every miserly second Is brimming with eter [...]

Meditation in the Gutter

Of things undescribable! Things unspeakable! The scent of summer night. Rabbit pate made with white Vouvray wine The flutes in the Andes. Tree-tops in purple light. The street was emptying at dusk Like a fading memory with one golden moment. [...]

Window Washer

And again the screech of the scaffold High up there where all our thoughts converge: Lightheaded, hung By a leather strap, Twenty stories up In the chill of November air, Wiping the grime Off the pane, the windows Which have no way of op [...]