- Sinbad the Sailor, and: Guide to Local Penitentiaries, and: The Cricket on My Pillow, and: In This Prison of Ours
Sinbad the Sailor
On dark winter nights in the country, The poor and the old keep A single light lit in their homes, Weak and not easy to see, Like someone who had rowed his boat Beyond the sight of land, And had lowered his oars To rest and light a cigarette With the sea quiet around him— Or would they be dark fields Made quiet by the falling snow? [End Page 52]
Guide to Local Penitentiaries
The low-storied ones are for chicken and cattle; The huge ones with guard towers are for people.
The first they take out and slaughter most days; The others they watch go mad being locked up.
One can smell fear and death for miles around, Entering a church or stopping at a farm stand.
Even a dog trained to kill is afraid of these men, Even the morning sunlight entering a motel room
Never suspecting it’ll find one of them awake, And can’t help but draw back and turn pale. [End Page 53]
The Cricket on My Pillow
His emaciated legs and wings Speak of fasting, frantic prayers,
Dark nights of the soul, And other nameless torments
Before he sought refuge in my home From that unappeasable higher power
Who saw fit to cover his bed With a first thin layer of snow. [End Page 54]
In This Prison of Ours
Where the turnkey is so discreet No one ever sees him Making the rounds, It takes a brave soul To tap on the wall of his cell When the lights are out, Hoping to be overheard, If not among the angels in heaven, Then among the damned in hell. [End Page 55]
charles simic is a poet, essayist, and translator. His most recent book is New and Selected Poems: 1962–2012.