Book Review: Walking the Black Cat

Walking the Black Cat

by Charles Simic

1996.  96 pages.

Genre: Poetry


Final Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

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Hamlet’s ghost wandering the halls of a Vegas motel, a street corner ventriloquist using passersby as dummies, and Jesus panhandling in a weed-infested Eden are just a few of the startling conceits Simic unleashes in this collection. “Few contemporary poets have been as influential-or inimitable-as Charles Simic” (New York Times Book Review).

My Thoughts:

I picked this book up randomly at the library and after reading it, all I can ask myself is: “How have I never heard of Charles Simic unitl now?  Where has he been all of my life?”  I was in love after the first poem!  Simic’s vivid imagery flowed like a cinematic film, reeling through my imagination and miming stories using my own mental imagery as its playground.  They read almost like folk tales!

Don’t Wake the Cards was one I found intriguing, as Simic explains that his bad luck as been buried in his lover’s “deck of cards”, and he takes extra great care not to let the card tower that’s built from them fall over, or his bad luck might escape and wreak havoc on his life once more.

Simic’s poems tells stories that don’t have to ryhme to flow well. “It’s all in the methaphor” is what I always tell people who ask me about what makes good poetry.  I looked for a poem in this book that I didn’t like, and in all honesty, I could not find one.

These poems are great for a rainy day!  I recommed taking your time with this one! They are easy to take in for a quick read, but if you take the time to truley reflect on the mood that the tones set and visualize the scenarios that Simic presents,  you will see the true genius behind each and every poem in these pages!

I have a new favorite poet to add to my list!

Favorite Poem(s):

Cameo Appearance

I had a small, nonspeaking part
In a bloody epic.  I was one of the
Bombed and fleeing humanity.
In the great distance our leader
Crowed like a rooster from a balcony,
Or was it a great actor
Impersonating our great leader?

That’s me there, I said to the kiddies.
I’m squeezed between the man
With two bandaged hands raised
And the old woman with her mouth open
As if she were showing us a tooth

That hurts badly.  The hundred times
I rewound the tape, not once
Could they catch sight of me
In that huge gray crowd,
That was like any other gray crowd.

Trot off to bed, I said finally.
I know I was there.  One take
Is all they had time for.
We ran, and the planes grazed our hair,
And then they were no more
As we stood dazed in the burning city,
But of course, they didn’t film that.

Blood Orange

It looks so dark the end of the world may be near.
I believe it’s going to rain.
The birds in the park are silent.
Nothing is what it seems to be,
Nor are we.

There’s a tree on our street so big
We can all hide in its leaves.
We won’t need any clothes either.
I feel as old as a cockroach, you said.
In my head, I’m a passenger on a ghost ship.

Not even a sigh outdoors now.
If a child was left on our doorstep,
It must be asleep.
Everything is teetering on the edge of everything
With a polite smile.

It’s because there are things in this world
That just can’t be helped, you said.
Right then, I heard the blood orange
Roll off the table and with a thud
Lie cracked open on the floor

Favorite Lines:

The bearded old man on the corner
The one drinking out of a brown paper bag
The one who declares himself
The world’s greatest ventriloquist,
We are all his puppets, he says
When he chooses to say anything

The night threw open its birdcage.
The trees pretended to protect us.
In a fit of passion they’d rise
Against the slightest sough of wind,
Only to fall back
Into long minutes of listening.

Each one of my thoughts was being ghostwritten
By anonymous authors. Each time they hit
A cobwebbed typewriter key, I shudder.

Final Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

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