Poetic justice

Charles Simic

A token  “new-style” Cuban-American has been raised to Poet Laureate For a Day.  Yipee.  See previous post on this subject.

Poets?  You want poets, Mr. President?  How about one that isn’t a mirror image of your brittle dogmas?

How about two poems by Charles Simic?  A Pulitzer-prize-winner and THE Poet Laureate of the United States (2007-2008), Simic has also received numerous other accolades, including the Wallace Stevens Award and a MacArthur (“Genius”) Fellowship.

Today, Babalu names Serbian-American Simic an honorary Cuban and its Inaugural Poet.

So, forget Don Blanco, Token Laureate. Here are two poems written in 1994 — long before Barrack Obama entered the national scene — that properly mark the occasion of his second inauguration, and which also describe his character and his effect on this country with an eerie poetic prescience.

Mr. Simic  may not agree with this interpretation of his poems, and may actually resent the honor bestowed on him today by this blog.    Who knows?  But it doesn’t matter.  As the leading liberal demigods of the thinking class argued in the late twentieth century,  texts have no fixed meaning.  For us postmoderns and post-postmoderns,  the meaning is in the eye of the beholder.   Yeah, sure.   You bet.  Aren’t we allowed to play by the rules invented by our antagonists?

Most definitely.  It’s only fair:  we are entitled to read our own meaning into these texts and any others, just the same as any liberal or progressive.  Just the same as the History Channel and its reading of Nostradamus.

Interpret away, then, damas y caballeros, as you prepare to witness the inauguration of an American president who is “nothing but a vague sense of loss, a piercing, heart-wrenching dread, on an avenue with no name.”



Just the other day

On the busy street

You stopped to search your pockets

For some change


When you noticed them following you.

Blind, deaf, mad and homeless,

Out of respect keeping their distance.

You are our Emperor! they shouted.

Chief Executioner!

The world’s greatest tamer of wild beasts!


As for your pockets,

There was a hole in each one

At which they drew close

Touching you everywhere,

Raising a paper crown to your head.

obama candle



Monumental, millennial decrepitude,

As tragedy requires.  A broad

Avenue with trash unswept,

A few solitary speck-sized figures

Going about their business

In a world already smudged by a schoolboy’s eraser.


You’ve no idea what city this is,

What country?  It could be a dream,

But is it yours?  You’re nothing

But a vague sense of loss,

A piercing, heart-wrenching dread

On an avenue with no name.


With a few figures conveniently small

And blurred who in any case

Have their backs to you

As they look elsewhere, beyond

The long row of gray buildings and their many windows,

Some of which appear to be broken.



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