I love the whimsical magic of Charles Simic—love the way seemingly simple observations transform into something both amusing and mysterious. So, one day I dismantled his short poem, “Mirrors at 4 A.M.” I pulled the poem from limb to limb and then, line by line, tried to imitate the magic.
Swimmers, Hudson River, Lake Luzerne, New York. 2011. Detail from the cover photo, Stone Canoe Number 9. Rebecca Soderholm, photographer.
I opened my poem with a “You” address and, like Charles Simic, took on the persona of a wry observer. Where Simic described the eeriness of a mirror reflection, I wrote about the kind of perfect room you see in a home design magazine—flowing curtains, enormous floral bouquets, no sign of human activity.
Sadly, I am not Charles Simic. My efforts at humor turned ridiculous when the plump ottomans in my poem puffed up and began to speak. As I revised, I had to let go the dream of being a miniature version of my favorite poet.
My final draft “House Beautiful” is nothing like Simic’s “Mirrors at 4 A.M.” Still, I like to imagine that Charles Simic would enjoy the closing lines:
Beyond the Palladian window,
nothing but daffodils,
an improbable sky,
a smudge from your inky hand.
“House Beautiful” appears in this winter’s edition of Stone Canoe. It’s a gorgeous journal, packed with amazing work by writers and visual artists who have roots in Upstate New York.