Charon the Boatman

Back and Forth Across the River Styx

Back and Forth Across the River Styx

I haven’t printed any poems lately, so I paid a visit to the work of America’s Serbian-born poet, Charles Simic.

Charon’s Cosmology
By Charles Simic

With only his dim lantern
To tell him where he is
And every time a mountain
Of fresh corpses to load up

Take them to the other side
Where there are plenty more
I’d say by now he must be confused
As to which side is which

I’d say it doesn’t matter
No one complains he’s got
Their pockets to go through
In one a crust of bread in another a sausage

Once in a long while a mirror
Or a book which he throws
Overboard into the dark river
Swift and cold and deep

Now, why, I wonder, would Charon toss books into the Styx? God knows, if I were one of his fares, I would probably have a book on me. Eternity lasts a long time, and there’s plenty of time to read Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, and everything else. There exists some doubt, however, that at that point it would do me any earthly good.