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Louis Simpson: Gallery for The Owner of the House

The Floor Lamp | The Inner Part | The Unwritten Poem

The Floor Lamp

He threw his belongings
in one of the matching suitcases.
And the floor lamp was his.

He took a taxi to the station.
The lamp was awkward to carry.
The shade tilted like a hat.

Suppose he just left it. . . .
He could see it on the platform,
waiting for him to come back.

The early commuters
would step around it.
Later when everyone was hurrying

it would fall with a crack.
He picked up the floor lamp,
and the suitcase, and turned back.

The Inner Part

When they had won the war
And for the first time in history
Americans were the most important people —

When the leading citizens no longer lived in their shirt sleeves
And their wives did not scratch in public;
Just when they'd stopped saying "Gosh!" —

When their daughters seemed as sensitive
As the tip of a fly rod,
And their sons were as smooth as a V-8 engine —

Priests, examining the entrails of birds,
Found the heart misplaced, and seeds
As black as death, emitting a strange odor.

The Unwritten Poem

You will never write the poem about Italy.
What Socrates said about love
is true of poetry — where is it?
Not in beautiful faces and distant scenery
but the one who writes and loves.

In your life here, on this street
where the houses from the outside
are all alike, and so are the people.
Inside, the furniture is dreadful —
flock on the walls, and huge color television.

To love and write unrequited
is the poet's fate. Here you'll need
all your ardor and ingenuity.
This is the front and these are the heroes —
a life beginning with "Hi!" and ending with "So long!"

You must rise to the sound of the alarm
and march to catch the 6:20 —
watch as they ascend the station platform
and, grasping briefcases, pass beyond your gaze
and hurl themselves into the flames.

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"The Floor Lamp," "The Inner Part," and "The Unwritten Poem" appear in The Owner of the House (Rochester, New York: BOA Editions, Ltd., 2003). Copyright 2003 by Louis Simpson. Reprinted with permission from BOA Editions, Ltd.

© 1999 - 2003, by the poets featured herein.