cover image Scribbled in the Dark

Scribbled in the Dark

Charles Simic. Ecco, $22 (96p) ISBN 978-0-06-266117-3

In his latest exemplary collection, Simic (The Lunatic), one of American poetry’s most revered and acclaimed figures, reveals a mysterious world that is simultaneously sinister and whimsical, observable through the minute details trailing in the wake of life’s most fleeting moments: “For a mind full of disquiet/ A trembling roadside weed is Cassandra,/ And so is the sight/ Of a boarded up public library.” The book’s references to mortality, the undertaker, and the graveyard could easily mark these as typical late poems, but Simic has always had a knack for channeling the morbid—and managing to blend it with the joyous. It is in navigating those kinds of opposing emotions that he is at his most clever and profound: “I came here in my youth./ A wind toy on a string./ Saw a street in hell and one in paradise.” Something similar could be said of how he handles isolation and the theatricality of the mundane: “The woman I love is a saint/ Who deserves to have/ People falling on their knees,” he writes, “Instead, here she is on the floor/ Hitting a mouse with a shoe/ As tears run down her face.” Image by image, Simic composes miniature masterpieces, offering what appears as a seemingly effortless study in language’s cinematic possibilities. (June)