Five, six chairs piled up in the yard
And you on top of them
Sitting like a hanging judge,
Wearing only pajama bottoms.
The sparrows, what must they think?
If people are watching,
They are as quiet as goldfish,
Or expensive cuts of meat.
Hour after hour alone with the sky
And its mad serenity
On the rickety, already teetering,
Already leaning tower.
How frightened the neighbors must be,
Not even a child walks the streets
In this heat,
Not even a car passes and slows down.
What do you see in the distance, O father?
A windowpane struck by the setting sun?
A game called on account of darkness?
The players like fleas in a convent.
Hell’s bells about to toll?
Charles Simic (1938–2023) was a poet, essayist, translator, and editor. Born in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, he emigrated to the U.S. in 1954 and began publishing English-language poems in 1959. He received the Pulitzer Prize in poetry, was a MacArthur and Guggenheim Fellow, and served as poet laureate of the United States from 2007 to 2008.