House Beautiful

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.

Canoe Journal No. 9 - Swimmers, Hudson River, Lake Luzerne
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.

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