The glimmer of gold
Nobody reads poetry anymore
so who the hell are you
I see bent over this book?
light up my face
from time to time.
you don't see me.
wherever that is,
from Skin and bones
The priest and the mourners
are climbing a hill,
the dead man lies smiling
in the coffin of yellow wood.
The red-faced priest reads
from a black prayer-book
while stealing peeks
at the young woman next to him.
His prayer has brought
tears to her eyes,
she imagines his hand
between her breasts.
Even the deceased
has propped himself on an elbow.
The spring rain
beats on his chest and face
as he listens closely
to what the priest is saying.
Finally, he shrugs his shoulders
and lies back down.
How antiquated a tree is! How old-timey,
its inclination to rustle in the evening
while I walk home from the library with books under my arms.
Its branches sway the way the wind wants them to
and its beauty lies in what a man or child
bears in his heart as he runs under it.
Perhaps only Plato expected to find wisdom
in such constant motion. First one, and then another
branch, fails to inscribe a circle,
merely arousing in us certain associations
at which we arrive by swapping our experience
of the real for our experience of the imaginary.
And how old-fashioned I am, who loves to dawdle
under a tree and seek in its appearance
some symbol of mortality and eternal life.
The mouse is golden
and so are the turtle and the spider,
and even the centipede,
and the pebble with which you try
to get rid of it
without leaving your bench,
from which one can view many other
things and golden beings.
Make me a long coat of heavy cloth, tailor,
the kind that won't fray,
and of a dark color,
so no one will notice the cigarette ashes.
Make the dark trousers of the same material,
to last as long as I want them to,
wearing them to visit many cities, villages,
and other out-of-the-way places.
Make me a dark vest, O tailor,
in which to sit at a banquet table
with a rich man's rose in the buttonhole,
surrounded by happy faces.
Make me a dark jacket, tailor, with wide, deep pockets
to clench my fists in, while watching the one
they're dragging from my table into the bushes,
which after a few moments begin to shake.
translated by Charles Simic