Reading: Old Couple by Charles Simic

Charles Simic (b. 1938) is an American poet born in Servia. His early childhood during World War 2 informed some of his poetry, that is said to be haunting and agonizing, but replete with gallows humor. He also wrote a lot of poems about everyday objects, such as spoons, knives and forks. I found this poem named Old Couple:

Old Couple
They’re waiting to be murdered,
Or evicted. Soon
They expect to have nothing to eat.

In the meantime, they sit.

A violent pain is coming, they think.
It will start in the heart
And climb into the mouth.
They’ll be carried off in stretchers, howling.

Tonight they watch the window
Without exchanging a word.
It has rained, and now it looks
Like it’s going to snow a little.

I see him get up to lower the shades.
If their window stays dark,
I know his hand has reached hers
Just as she was about to turn on the lights.

A little sentimental, but very effectful. The old couple is preparing to die in tough times. Is it war? Or are they people of a minority that according to some fanatics, “doesn’t belong” where they live, a situation that was not uncommon in former Yugoslavia? I don’t know, but I see the couple sitting there, thinking about that violent pain that starts in the heart. Heartbroken perhaps, that they must end like this, and so painful it becomes painful to even talk about it. Howling, did you hear that, Alan Ginsberg? while carried off in (on?) stretchers.
The expectation of a little snow after the rain is incredibly tender and prepares for the emotional suckerpunch in the final stanza. Just be honest, isn’t it beautiful? When it stays dark, the poet knows his hand has reached hers before she could turn on the lights.
One day, of course, the window will stay dark for another reason. The couple will be dead. But in the mind of the poet it will be dark because the couple is holding hands.

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