On Meeting Charles Simic

posted Jun 2, 2009

When we saw each other
in the New Hampshire night
outside after the reading
we smiled in strange
recognition. We both
perked up our ears to hear
the whippoorwills. I went
up to him and we shook
hands, and then he threw
his arm around me, and
like old buds we walked off,
a couple of metaphor’s
soldiers—blokes really—in
the Crooked Teeth Brigade.


We sat down on a wall
not far from Hamilton
Smith Hall, I believe. We
rolled up our sleeves and got down
to serious talk. He called
poetry the music of chance
and claimed that its secret
desire was to seduce.
I agreed. And then he
gripped my hands and told me,
angel, eloquent rat—
that’s the key. The substance
joining the image seeds.”


“But what about the poet
whose words are bathed in
the blood of the lamb?
What does he have over
the poet whose words knock
down the soft yellow ducks
at the carnival booth?
And what about the old
wine-drunk professors of
what used to be called
philosophy? What will
they care about father’s
scythe and mother’s Sunday
skirt? Day-destroying night.”


Nearing the parking lot
I leaned in and said, “Chaz,
metaphor’s nothing but
a nipple to be turned
and twisted just enough
to help reach the sublime.”
Honestly, I wanted
to knock him in the teeth
for what he had written
about Robert Creeley,
but reasonable minds
can kick across the ground
together as they stroll
through awful certainty.

Scott Keeney is the author of Sappho Does Hay(na)ku. His work has appeared in Court Green, Columbia Poetry Review, Poetry East, and other literary magazines.

We’ve published three more poems by Keeney: “On Meeting John Ashbery,” “On Meeting Charles Wright,” and “On Meeting Elizabeth Bishop.”