That Little Something Charles Simic

2 posts

The Child of Your Rainy Sundays


When you pick up a novel you read years ago, threads of narrative fabric stand out, looking familiar to you. Not so the poetry collection. If you’ve read it once, a year ago or more, chances are it will feel new to you as you read it again. A gift, then! Further testament to the mysteries of poetry.

Yesterday I pulled Simic’s That Little Something from the shelf as a tonic after watching a little too much of the Senate hearing on Judge (for Yourself) Brett Kavanaugh. Effects were remarkable, swift, and salubrious!

Reinvigorated, I shared Simic’s ode-like piece, “To Laziness” on these pages, so today I follow san- with -guine by giving you its brother-in-arms, the equally tranquil “To Boredom.” (Ah, for the good old days, when one could afford to be bored!)


To Boredom
by Charles Simic

I’m the child of your rainy Sundays.
I watched time crawl
Over the ceiling
Like a wounded fly.

A day would last forever,
Making pellets of bread,
Waiting for a branch
On a bare tree to move.

The silence would deepen,
The sky would darken,
As Grandmother knitted
With a ball of black yarn.

Heaven is like that.
In eternity’s classrooms,
The angels sit like bored children
With their heads bowed.


As former students, I’m sure we can all relate to “eternity’s classrooms,” especially in a poem called “To Boredom.” Few classrooms, after all, were capable of escaping so swift a predator as eternity. We’ll see for ourselves some day, I assure you!

With that, my blessings: May your Saturday be rainy. Or sunny, for all I care. As long as it’s slow enough to watch time “crawl / Over the ceiling / Like a wounded fly.”

Why Do Some Poems Inspire You To Write While Others Don’t?

After Roman Coliseum-like spectacles like yesterday’s special Senate hearing on the pending Supreme Court nomination, one can’t help but curl up in a ball of despair or read poetry.

I chose poetry. It took my mind off ugly things and reminded me of what can be beautiful in life. For succor, I chose my copy of Charles Simic’s That Little Something, flipping open to pick-a-page, any-page. Turns out, the page was 21 — older than most Senators acted yesterday — and the poem was “To Laziness.”

I don’t know about you, but for me, there are poets and there are poets who inspire one to write. Simic belongs in the latter category. His free verse, his often short lines, his conviction that the ordinary is worth exploration, they all drive me to blacken a blank screen and revise.

This poem, in true wu-wei fashion, does a whole lot of nothing elegantly. Stanza one muses on big topics, like eternity, but stanza two dives into that simplest of difficult techniques to pull off well — the list — finishing with the poem’s strongest lines, a metaphoric sail “made of cigarette smoke.”

In the final stanza, simply enough, Simic does a little “meta-” wondering. Where am I? Why am I here? Until even the clouds (echoing the cigarette smoke’s infectious listlessness a stanza earlier) are described as not being sure “which way to go.”

Did laziness ever look so good? Especially when it cleanses your mind of pompous partisans and drives you to write yourself? Rhetorical questions, all!

Here, then, is Simic’s poem:


To Laziness
by Charles Simic

Only you understood
How little time we are given,
Not enough to lift a finger.
The voices on the stairs,
Thoughts too quick to pursue,
What do they all matter?
When eternity beckons.

The heavy curtains drawn,
The newspapers unread.
The keys collecting dust.
The flies either sluggish or dead.
The bed like a slow boat,
With its one listless sail
Made of cigarette smoke.

When I did move at last,
The stores were closed.
Was it already Sunday?
The weddings and funerals were over.
The one or two white clouds left
Above the dark rooftops,
Not sure which way to go.