To Helen

Charles Simic

Tomorrow early I’m going to the doctor
In the blue suit and shirt you ironed.
Tomorrow I’m having my bones photographed
With my heart in its spiked branches.

It will look like a birdnest in autumn
On a bleak day, one foot into the evening.
The tree is ill-shapen and alone in a field.
It must have been an apple, a crab apple

Tough and sour to make each tooth sore,
So that one goes off regretting, for now
The road’s dark and there are new worries,
Fast, swerving cars without headlights on.

Unknown drivers asleep at the wheel,
Because it’s such a fine, bone-chilling night.
Shadowy women are stirring black coffee,
Or they come out on the road to wait,

Wind-twisted and exquisitely blurred
In the wake of these cars that are moving
So fast or so slow, one barely hears them.
They’re like clouds, if you hear them, the dark clouds.

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


Louise Glück’s Late Style

The fabular turn in the poet’s last three books
Teju Cole

The Critic as Friend

The challenge of reading generously
Merve Emre

Rachel Cusk

The novelist on the “feminine non-state of non-being”
Merve Emre


New perspectives, enduring writing. Join a conversation 200 years in the making. Subscribe to our print journal and receive four beautiful issues per year.