Looking it in the Face

portrait,black and white, photography

“Once she stops pestering me, I steal a peek at the clock and can’t believe my eyes. They say that time goes faster after you pass sixty. No question about it, it’s true. Where are the long, lazy summers of my youth when I sat moping from morning till night unable to think of anything interesting to do? I recollect walking up to a mirror and repeating with greater and greater conviction, “Life is boring.” On such days, the old clock barely budged, just to spite me. You fool, I’m thinking today, that was pure bliss. The mystery of happiness was right there in that cheap clock your mother bought at Woolworth. Time graciously came to a stop in it; eternity threw open its doors and you hesitated or grew wary on its threshold and breathed a sigh of relief when the door shut in your face and the hand of the clock moved on.”

“Of course, I never really believed it would happen. Grow old, I mean. I knew it was coming, saw the evidence of it in my friends and relatives, but despite that, I acted as if aging had nothing to do with me. Even having people congratulate me on my seventy-fifth birthday doesn’t sound right to me. Either they or I must have screwed up the count somewhere along the way. Knowing the truth, of course, is better than fooling oneself, but who wants to look truth in the face every morning?…”

“…The reality of that didn’t hit me until I was almost fifty. I woke up one morning a few days before my fiftieth birthday and suddenly grasped the enormity of it. A half a century is no joke…So many memories came back to me at once; all of a sudden my life seemed to be that of a complete stranger. It took months to get used to it—if one can ever get used to knowing that the world and people one once knew have vanished without a trace…”

“…On certain days I feel like a car with too many miles on its speedometer. There’s a knock in the engine, the radiator overheats, the oil leaks, the body is rusty, the upholstery is ripped and stained, one windshield wiper doesn’t work, and the muffler is full of holes. ‘Don’t worry about it,’ my Doc says. He insists that I’m in terrific shape despite high blood pressure, old-age diabetes, and growing deafness in both ears. He sounds like a used car salesman to me, trying to get rid of a car that’s ready for the junk yard, but I lap up his words all the same, and speed away after the checkup singing at the top of my voice and trailing a cloud of black smoke from the exhaust…”

~ Charles Simic, Looking it in the Face, The New York Review of Books Blog

Dušan “Charles” Simić, 75, was born in Belgrade, Serbia. He received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1990 for The World Doesn’t End, and was a finalist in 1986 for Selected Poems 1963-1983 and in 1987 for Unending Blues.  Growing up as a child in war-torn Europe shaped much of his world-view, Simic states. In an interview from the Cortland Review he said, “Being one of the millions of displaced persons made an impression on me. In addition to my own little story of bad luck, I heard plenty of others. I’m still amazed by all the vileness and stupidity I witnessed in my life.”  He began to make a name for himself in the early to mid-1970s as a literary minimalist, writing terse, imagistic poems. Critics have referred to Simic poems as “tightly constructed Chinese puzzle boxes.” Simic has stated: “Words make love on the page like flies in the summer heat and the poet is merely the bemused spectator.”

Simic immigrated to the United States with his family in 1954 when he was sixteen. He grew up in Chicago and received his B.A. from New York University. He is professor emeritus of American literature and creative writing at the University of New Hampshire and lives on the shore of Bow Lake in Strafford, New Hampshire.

Sources: Quotes – The New York Review of Books Blog.  Charles Simic Portrait via A Poet Reflects. Simic Bio: Wiki

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  1. Incredible — it is like he is inside my head


  2. Exactly. Be sure to read his entire post. No question why this man has won the Pulitzer and other prizes and accolades.


  3. Brilliant..and yes, one sings quite loudly and skip down the sidewalk (quite clumsily)


  4. Exactly how I feel. Sometimes I will catch my reflection in a store window and not even recognize myself. Scary!


  5. He writes very well. (I guess that’s an understatement.)


  6. That’s me…”looking it in the face.” I could write pages about this one, but I’ll spare everyone here. Let me just say, something seems wrong here. I wish we could start out with old bodies and grow younger…so that all the wisdom we gain through the years can really be put to good use with renewed energy and vitality. By the time we figure it all out, all we can do is think about it and wonder why it took us so long to really get all of this. 🙂


  7. Doctors as used car salesmen. I like that.


  8. I can understand this so clearly…last weekend was the last of my children’s weddings. As I looked around at all of the relatives who attended, I realized that there were only a couple of the family elders left…my siblings and cousins are all next in line…where did the time go? I don’t feel like an elder, but looking at my older siblings I realized we are coming up soon!


  9. Yes, I totally identify with everything he wrote here!


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