“The World Doesn’t End” by Charles Simic

Things were not as black as somebody painted them.  There was a pretty child dressed in black and playing with two black apples.  It was either a girl dressed as a boy, or a boy dressed as a girl.  Whatever, it had small white teeth.  The landscape outside its window had been blackened with a heavy and coarse paint brush.  It was all very teleological, except when the child stuck out its red tongue.


He held the Beast of the Apocalypse by its tail, the stupid kid! Oh beards on fire, our doom appeared sealed. The buildings were tottering; the computer screens were as dark as our grandmother’s cupboards. We were too frightened to plead. Another century gone to hell – and for what? Just because some people don’t know how to bring their children up!


I am the last Napoleonic soldier.  It’s almost two hundred years later and I am still retreating from Moscow.  The road is lined with white birch trees and mud comes up to my knees.  The one-eyed woman wants to sell me a chicken, and I don’t even have any clothes on….The Germans are going one way; I am going the other.  The Russians are gong still another way and waving good-by.  I have a ceremonial saber.  I use it to cut my hair, which is four feet long.


The rat kept lovebirds. The window was open. The birds were naked. They shivered in the bright sunlight that fell in the cage.
‘It’s their nature,’ said the rat, ‘to work only at loving and being loved!’
The crucified Jesus agreed. He looked soulful despite the crossed eyes and Mexican bandit moustaches someone had drawn on him.

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