27 April 2008

Among the Exiles

I have posted here repeatedly [1] [2] [3] [4] on the wonderful work of Charles Simic. In the NYRB this week (15 May '08) there are a couple of his poems. Here is one:

Among the Exiles
Charles Simic

One met former cabinet ministers,
University Professors, defrocked priests and officers,
Feeding pigeons from a park bench,
Squinting into foreign newspapers
And telling anyone who asked
Not to bother their heads about the truth.

On the use of murder to improve the world,
They had many bitter memories
As they huddled in their dim kitchens,
Clipping supermarket coupons,
Shifting the loose dentures in their mouths
While waiting for the tea kettle to boil.

They ate in restaurants with waiters older than themselves,
Musicians whose hands trembled
As they picked their instruments
Making some giddy widow burst into sobs
On hearing the song her husband loved,
The man who sent thousands to their deaths.
This poem brought to mind the future awaiting members of our current administration as they age further, far from the spotlight and, if not literally exiled, then quietly set to one side. It conjures images of their families, remembering them fondly once they're dead, managing to overlook the horrors they have visited upon the world. Of course, Simic surely would insist that the poem really is nowhere near so narrowly focused. Of that, I have no doubt. Just because there are other criminals whose circumstances are captured by the poem, though, doesn't mean it doesn't "apply" to Bush and his minions too.

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