Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Charles Simic's "Paradise Motel"/Meet the New Boss

Halvard Johnson recently sent this poem out to this lucky recipient. Charles Simic has recently been appointed the new U.S. Poet Laureate. I've found Simic's work to be an intriguing translation of Eastern European surrealist modes to a quirky (and sometimes purposefully oddball) American free verse vernacular. Like most poets with so many books, Simic has his misses. But this poem, beginning in death and ending in color, dramatizes the scary way in which we move from mass death to aestheticism, despite our best attempts.

Paradise Motel

Millions were dead; everybody was innocent.
I stayed in my room. The President
Spoke of war as of a magic love potion.
My eyes were opened in astonishment.
In a mirror my face appeared to me
Like a twice-canceled postage stamp.

I lived well, but life was awful.
there were so many soldiers that day,
So many refugees crowding the roads.
Naturally, they all vanished
With a touch of the hand.
History licked the corners of its bloody mouth.
On the pay channel, a man and a woman
Were trading hungry kisses and tearing off
Each other's clothes while I looked on
With the sound off and the room dark
Except for the screen where the color
Had too much red in it, too much pink.

--Charles Simic

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