Things

By Louis Simpson 1923–2012 Louis Simpson
A man stood in the laurel tree
Adjusting his hands and feet to the boughs.   
He said, “Today I was breaking stones   
On a mountain road in Asia,

When suddenly I had a vision
Of mankind, like grass and flowers,   
The same over all the earth.
We forgave each other; we gave ourselves   
Wholly over to words.
And straightway I was released   
And sprang through an open gate.”

I said, “Into a meadow?”

He said, “I am impervious to irony.   
I thank you for the word ...   
I am standing in a sunlit meadow.   
Know that everything your senses reject   
Springs up in the spiritual world.”

I said, “Our scientists have another opinion.   
They say, you are merely phenomena.”

He said, “Over here they will be angels   
Singing, Holy holy be His Name!
And also, it works in reverse.
Things which to us in the pure state are mysterious,   
Are your simplest articles of household use—
A chair, a dish, and meaner even than these,   
The very latest inventions.
Machines are the animals of the Americans—
Tell me about machines.”

I said, “I have suspected
The Mixmaster knows more than I do,   
The air conditioner is the better poet.
My right front tire is as bald as Odysseus—
How much it must have suffered!
Then, as things have a third substance   
Which is obscure to both our senses,
Let there be a perpetual coming and going   
Between your house and mine.”

Louis Simpson, “Things” from Collected Poems (Saint Paul, Minn.: Paragon House, 1988). Copyright © 1988 by Louis Simpson. Reprinted with the permission of the author.

Source: Collected Poems (Paragon House, 1988)

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Poet Louis Simpson 1923–2012

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Subjects History & Politics, Trees & Flowers, Money & Economics, Nature, Social Commentaries

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Louis  Simpson

Biography

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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SUBJECT History & Politics, Trees & Flowers, Money & Economics, Nature, Social Commentaries

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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