Her Clutter, My Grime by John Oliver Simon

for Becky

Her clutter takes over on every surface:
overdue bills, last year’s Times crossword puzzles,
photos of grandchildren — her rabbits! — junk mail,
poems jotted in a happenstance notebook

buried under sedimental detritus,
brief ordinary poems brimming with play,
free of all pretence, channelling Emily.
My grime coagulates on a clear glass plate,

egg or chicken proteins chemically bonded
to frozen oceans of concentric sandstone.
She holds it up in my face. You call this washed?
Sprat and spouse, as married as we can handle.


John Oliver Simon is one of the legendary poets of the Berkeley Sixties who has remained true to his calling. Published from Abraxas to Zyzzyva, his last book was Caminante (2002) which Gary Snyder blurbed as "a major poem." He is also a distinguished translator of contemporary poetry from Latin America, who received an NEA Fellowship for his work with the great Chilean poet Gonzalo Rojas (1917-2011). He is Artistic Director of Poetry Inside Out, a program of the Center for the Art of Translation, and is River of Words 2013 Teacher of the Year.

Bay Laurel  /  Volume 2, Issue 3  /  Autumn 2013