Ripping a Charles Simic Poem Out of the New Yorker
by Joshua Michael Stewart

It’s the one about the insomniac fortuneteller huffing down snowy streets, professing premonitions to the headless mannequins in the tombstone-storefronts. I’ve been roaming the bookstore for hours. The saleswoman in a hand-knit sweater (a blinking red bulb of a reindeer’s nose over her right breast) has been eyeing me from the register, sweeping her tongue over her teeth–a primitive gesture that says, “I know what you’re up to, Buster.”

Subscription cards trail behind me into the self-help section the way bloody footprints lead to the executioner’s favorite hotdog stand in line seven in Simic’s poem. The doll in the fourth stanza has sold her hard-luck story about how mice built a nest in her head, and a sliver of moonlight reveals a snout emerging from one of her eye sockets.

I want to save her, so I pull one page away from the others, stealthily like digging a tunnel through a dungeon wall. The magazine drops like the last brick holding back sunlight. I tuck the poem into my jacket and turn toward the electronic doors. The saleswoman crows like a guard from a tower—the red light on her chest flashes like gunfire. The doors slide open to a woman standing in fresh snow. She grabs me by the hand and is eager to read.

 

Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 23, Issue 4.

Joshua Michael Stewart has had poems published in the Massachusetts Review, Salamander, Plainsongs, Brilliant Corners, and many others. His books are, Break Every String, (Hedgerow Books, 2016) and, The Bastard Children of Dharma Bums, (Human Error Publishing, 2020).

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