Down the Alleymouth

Charles Simic

You who diligently tattoo
An exotic bird
On the scrawny chest of a young sailor,
It kept on snowing all evening;

While you labored over the colorful plumage,
Of the proud and ornate bird,
And the beardless one sat shivering, naked to the waist,
In a world theatrically veiled and hushed;

On the night of the great blizzard,
With only the two of you in that parlor
Huddled by the lamp, as if confiding.

And now the mirror being tilted
For a view of its spread wings,
The wide-open beak.

Charles Simic was a Serbian-American poet and essayist. Born in Belgrade, he and his family immigrated to America when he was in high school. He won numerous prizes for his poetry, including the 1990 Pulitzer Prize, and served as the United States Poet Laureate.
Originally published:
July 1, 1985

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