To get into it
As it lies
Crumpled on the floor
Without disturbing a single crease
Of the way I threw it down
The way it happened to land
The impossible contortions
Doubling back now
Through a knotted sleeve
Simic’s contortionist empathy attempts the impossible: to fit into an object as it is, “without disturbing a single crease.” A poem can’t do that, but this one does. And without losing its humor.
Here, chance (“the way it happened to land”) structures effort. But what is it to inhabit a “crumpled” thought exactly? Or to be “respectful” of the (careless, passionate) action of a former self? And is more than a night’s sleep needed to repair our “raveled sleave of care”? (Think Greta Thunberg here.)
Charles Simic served as the 15th U.S. Poet Laureate (2007–2008) and in 2011 received the Frost Medal, presented annually for “lifetime achievement in poetry.” Simic is professor emeritus at the University of New Hampshire, where he has taught since 1973. “Shirt,” first published in 1980 in Classic Ballroom Dances, is reprinted here with permission of the author.
Katherine Hazzard selected this poem for the Independent. She has taught writing on both coasts and lives in Wellfleet.