The Immortal


You're shivering my memory.
You went out early and coatless
To visit your old schoolmasters,
The cruel schoolmasters
And their pet monkeys.

You took a wrong turn somewhere.
You met an army of gray days,
A ghost army of years on the march.
It must have been the slop they ladled you,
The ditch-water they made you drink.

You found yourself again on that street,
Inside that narrow room
With a single dusty window.
Outside it was snowing as in a dream.
You were ill and in bed.
The whole world was absent at work.
The blind old woman next door
Whose sighs and shuffles you'd welcome
Had died mysteriously in the summer.

You had your own breath to listen to.
You were perfectly alone and anonymous.
It would have taken months for anyone
To begin to miss you. The chill
Made you pull the covers up to the chin.

You remembered the lost arctic voyagers,
The snow erasing their footprints.
You had no money and no prospects in sight.
Both of your lungs were hurting.
You had no intention of lifting a finger
To help yourself. You were immortal.

Outside the same darkening snowflake
Seemed to be falling over and over again.
You studied the cracked walls,
The many water-stains on the ceiling
Trying to fix in your mind each detail.

Time had stopped at dusk.
You were shivering at the thought
Of such great happiness.


Charles Simic, The Voice at 3 A.M.: Selected Late and New Poems, Harvest Books, 2006.