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[Charles Simic]


Caged Fortuneteller


The Tiger

[El tigre]




The tiger


In memory of George Oppen


In San Francisco, that winter,

There was a dark little store

Full of sleepy Buddhas.

The afternoon I walked in,

No one came out to greet me.

I stood among the sages

As if trying to read their thoughts.


One was huge and made of stone.

A few were the size of a child’s head.

And hat stains the color of dried blood.

There were some no bigger than mice,

And they appeared to be listening.


“The winds of March, black winds,

They gritty winds,” the dead poet wrote.


At sundown his street was empty

Except for my long shadow

Open before me like scissors.

There was his house where I told the story

Of the Russian soldier,

The one who looked Chinese.


He lay wounded in my father’s bed,

And I brought him water and matches.

For that he gave me a little tiger

Made of ivory. Is mouth was open in anger,

But it had no stripes left.


There was the night when I colored

Its eyes black, its tongue red.

My brother held the lamp for me,

While worrying about the kind of luck

The beast might bring us.


The tiger in my hand growled faintly

When we were alone in the dark,

But when I put my ear to the poet’s door

That afternoon, I heard nothing.


“The winds of March, black winds,

The gritty winds,” he once wrote.


El Tigre                            

En memoria de George Oppen

En San Francisco, ese invierno,
había una pequeña y oscura tienda
llena de Budas somnolientos.
La tarde que entré
nadie vino a saludarme.
Estaba parado entre los sabios
como si tratara de leer sus pensamientos.

Uno era enorme y hecho de piedra,
unos pocos eran del tamaño de la cabeza de un niño
y tenían manchas de color sangre seca.
Incluso había otros no más grandes que un ratón,
y parecían estar escuchando.

"Los vientos de marzo, vientos negros,
los arenosos vientos", escribió el poeta muerto.

Al ocaso su calle estaba vacía
excepto por mi larga sombra
abierta ante como tijeras.
Su casa estaba donde yo conté la historia
del soldado ruso,
ése que parecía chino.

Yacía herido en la cama de mi padre,
y yo le llevaba agua y fósforos.

A cambio de eso me dio un pequeño tigre
de marfil. Su hocico estaba abierto de cólera,
pero no tenía rayas.

Hubo una noche en que yo pinté
sus ojos de negro, su lengua de rojo.
Mi madre sostenía la lámpara para ,
preocupada por el tipo de suerte
que esta bestia podría traernos.

El tigre en mi mano rugió suavemente
cuando estábamos solos en la oscuridad,
pero cuando puse mi oreja en la puerta del poeta
esa tarde, no escuché nada.

"Los vientos de marzo, vientos negros,
los vientos arenosos", escribió una vez.


Caged Fortuneteller

Sleeplessness, you're like a pawnshop
Open late
On a street of failing businesses.
The owner plays a flute,
And it's like night bird's calling
In a city where there are no birds.

There's a painting over the cash register:
Of a stiff Quaker couple dressed in black.
They each hold a cat under their arm.
One is a tiger, the other is Siamese.
The eyes are closed because it's late,
And because cats see better with eyes closed.

The pawnshop owner has an electric fortuneteller
In a glass cage.
Now he plugs her in and turns the other lights off.
"O foolish fellow," say she,
"If you can find your way, please hurry to me,
I'll even take out my breasts at the door
To light your way in the dark."

The street is shadowy and so is the sky.
We could be meeting Jacob and the angel.
We could be meeting our sleeplessness,
And the nun who carries morphine to the dying,
The black nun in soft, furry slippers.





Go inside a stone
That would be my way.
Let somebody else become a dove
Or gnash with a tiger’s tooth.
I am happy to be a stone.

From the outside the stone is a riddle:
No one knows how to answer it.
Yet within, it must be cool and quiet
Even though a cow steps on it full weight,
Even though a child throws it in a river;
The stone sinks, slow, unperturbed
To the river bottom
Where the fishes come to knock on it
And listen.

I have seen sparks fly out
When two stones are rubbed,
So perhaps it is not dark inside after all;
Perhaps there is a moon shining
From somewhere, as though behind a hill—
Just enough light to make out
The strange writings, the star-charts
On the inner walls.


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