Born in Belgrade, Serbia, Душан “Чарлс” Симић (better known today as Charles Simic) is probably one of our best poets. There is a simplicity and strength in his lines, which are usually blank verse. He received the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1990 for his collection The World Doesn’t End, and was a finalist in both 1983 and 1986. In 2007, he was appointed Poet Laureate.
Below is his poem entitled “Clouds Gathering,” which takes a romantic setting and sees beyond it the threats to happiness that all men face:
It seemed the kind of life we wanted.
Wild strawberries and cream in the morning.
Sunlight in every room.
The two of us walking by the sea naked.
Some evenings, however, we found ourselves
Unsure of what comes next.
Like tragic actors in a theater on fire,
With birds circling over our heads,
The dark pines strangely still,
Each rock we stepped on bloodied by the sunset.
We were back on our terrace sipping wine.
Why always this hint of an unhappy ending?
Clouds of almost human appearance
Gathering on the horizon, but the rest lovely
With the air so mild and the sea untroubled.
The night suddenly upon us, a starless night.
You lighting a candle, carrying it naked
Into our bedroom and blowing it out quickly.
The dark pines and grasses strangely still.
I love the last line, which reminds me of Thomas Hardy’s poem “The Subalterns,” in which nature apologetically admits to its unfortunate role as contributing to man’s suffering.