The Friends of Heraclitus

By Charles Simic b. 1938 Charles Simic
Your friend has died, with whom
You roamed the streets,
At all hours, talking philosophy.
So, today you went alone,
Stopping often to change places
With your imaginary companion,
And argue back against yourself
On the subject of appearances:
The world we see in our heads
And the world we see daily,
So difficult to tell apart
When grief and sorrow bow us over. 

You two often got so carried away
You found yourselves in strange neighborhoods
Lost among unfriendly folk,
Having to ask for directions
While on the verge of a supreme insight,
Repeating your question
To an old woman or a child
Both of whom may have been deaf and dumb.

What was that fragment of Heraclitus
You were trying to remember
As you stepped on the butcher’s cat?
Meantime, you yourself were lost
Between someone’s new black shoe
Left on the sidewalk
And the sudden terror and exhilaration
At the sight of a girl
Dressed up for a night of dancing
Speeding by on roller skates.

Charles Simic, “The Friends of Heraclitus” from Walking the Black Cat. Copyright © 1996 by Charles Simic. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Source: Walking the Black Cat (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1996)

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Poet Charles Simic b. 1938

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Subjects Living, Death, The Mind, Relationships, Friends & Enemies, Arts & Sciences, Philosophy

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 Living, Death, The Mind, Relationships, Friends & Enemies, Arts & Sciences, Philosophy

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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