Most of the poems I’ve read that touch upon spirituality do so with reverence and a prominent bow. But Charles Simic’s “The Old Word” is refreshing because it communicates the vastness of the soul while still managing to be entertaining.
Its poetic language is decipherable, crystalline, earthly. Yet just beyond the flowing syllables lies an unknowable substance that beckons you to the other side.
Here is the entire transcription of “The Old Word”:
I believe in the soul; so far
It hasn’t made much difference.
I remember an afternoon in Sicily.
The ruins of some temple.
Columns fallen in the grass like naked lovers.
The olives and goat cheese tasted delicious
And so did the wine
With which I toasted the coming night,
The darting swallows,
The Saracen wind and moon.
It got darker. There was something
Long before there were words:
The evening meal of shepherds . . .
A fleeting whiteness among the trees . . .
Eternity eavesdropping on time.
The goddess going to bathe in the sea.
She must not be followed.
These rocks, these cypress trees,
May be her old lovers.
Oh to be one of them, the wine whispered to me.