Aunt Lettuce, I want to peek under…

Charles Simic is one of my favorite poets. The reason is so obvious: his poetry is simple, yet unpredictable; it tends to use everyday words – very efficient and unromantic – but at the same time, what it reveals is unprecedented. Here’s an example:

Hotel Insomnia

I liked my little hole,
Its window facing a brick wall.
Next door there was a piano.
A few evenings a month
a crippled old man came to play
“My Blue Heaven.”
Mostly, though, it was quiet.
Each room with its spider in heavy overcoat
Catching his fly with a web
Of cigarette smoke and revery.

So dark,
I could not see my face in the shaving mirror.
At 5 A.M. the sound of bare feet upstairs.
The “Gypsy” fortuneteller,
Whose storefront is on the corner,
Going to pee after a night of love.
Once, too, the sound of a child sobbing.
So near it was, I thought
For a moment, I was sobbing myself.

Yesterday, my colleagues and I made a joke using one of Simic’s poems Aunt Lettuce, I want to peek under your skirt. Mr. O managed to recreate something out of it: “Aunt Lettuce, I make the girls lift their skirts for me to peek…” I said to him, in that case, I would remember wearing a skirt next time. Aunt Lettuce, I want to peek under my own skirt. Ha!

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