Past-Lives Therapy

By Charles Simic b. 1938 Charles Simic
They explained to me the bloody bandages
On the floor in the maternity ward in Rochester, N.Y.,   
Cured the backache I acquired bowing to my old master,   
Made me stop putting thumbtacks round my bed.

They showed me an officer on horseback,
Waving a saber next to a burning farmhouse   
And a barefoot woman in a nightgown,
Throwing stones after him and calling him Lucifer.

I was a straw-headed boy in patched overalls.   
Come dark a chicken would roost in my hair.   
Some even laid eggs as I played my ukulele   
And my mother and father crossed themselves.

Next, I saw myself inside an abandoned gas station   
Constructing a spaceship out of a coffin,
Red traffic cone, cement mixer and ear warmers,
When a church lady fainted seeing me in my underwear.

Some days, however, they opened door after door,   
Always to a different room, and could not find me.   
There’d be only a small squeak now and then,   
As if a miner’s canary got caught in a mousetrap.

Charles Simic, “Past-Lives Therapy” from The Voice at 3:00 AM: Selected Late and New Poems. Copyright © 2003 by Charles Simic. Reprinted with the permission of Harcourt, Inc. This material may not be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher.

Source: The Voice at 3:00 AM: Selected Late and New Poems (Harcourt Inc., 2003)

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Poet Charles Simic b. 1938

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Subjects Family & Ancestors, War & Conflict, Music, Health & Illness, Pets, Youth, Living, Relationships, Arts & Sciences, Social Commentaries

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Charles  Simic

Biography

Charles Simic is widely recognized as one of the most visceral and unique poets writing today. Simic’s work has won numerous awards, among them the 1990 Pulitzer Prize, the MacArthur Foundation “genius grant,” the Griffin International Poetry Prize, and, simultaneously, the Wallace Stevens Award and appointment as U.S. Poet Laureate. He taught English and creative writing for over thirty years at the University of New Hampshire. . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Family & Ancestors, War & Conflict, Music, Health & Illness, Pets, Youth, Living, Relationships, Arts & Sciences, 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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