There Is

By Louis Simpson 1923–2012 Louis Simpson
Look! From my window there’s a view   
of city streets
where only lives as dry as tortoises   
can crawl—the Gallapagos of desire.

There is the day of Negroes with red hair
and the day of insane women on the subway;   
there is the day of the word Trieste
and the night of the blind man with the electric guitar.

But I have no profession. Like a spy
I read the papers—Situations Wanted.   
Surely there is a secret
which, if I knew it, would change everything!

I have the poor man’s nerve-tic, irony.
I see through the illusions of the age!
The bell tolls, and the hearse advances,
and the mourners follow, for my entertainment.

I tread the burning pavement,
the streets where drunkards stretch   
like photographs of civil death
and trumpets strangle in electric shelves.

The mannequins stare at me scornfully.   
I know they are pretending
all day to be in earnest.
And can it be that love is an illusion?

When darkness falls on the enormous street   
the air is filled with Eros, whispering.   
Eyes, mouths, contrive to meet
in silence, fearing they may be prevented.

O businessmen like ruins,   
bankers who are Bastilles,
widows, sadder than the shores of lakes,
then you were happy, when you still could tremble!

But all night long my window
sheds tears of light.
I seek the word. The word is not forthcoming.   
O syllables of light ... O dark cathedral ...

Louis Simpson, “There Is” from The Owner of the House: New Collected Poems 1940-2001. Copyright © 2003 by Louis Simpson. Reprinted with the permission of BOA Editions, Ltd.,

Source: Collected Poems (BOA Editions Ltd., 1988)

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Poet Louis Simpson 1923–2012

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Subjects Religion

 Louis  Simpson


Poet, editor, translator, and critic Louis Simpson was born in 1923, in Jamaica, to Scottish and Russian parents. A contemporary of Confessional poets like Robert Lowell, John Berryman, and Sylvia Plath, Simpson’s early work followed a familiar arc. In the New York Times Book Review, critic David Orr noted its highlights: “Simpson has followed a path lined with signposts sunk so deep in our nation's poetic terra firma that . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Religion

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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