Poetry Review, Charles Simic, “Old Couple”

6 Feb

How small life can get, “Old Couple” chronicles this smallness.

“They’re waiting to be murdered,/or evicted.  Soon/they expect they’ll have nothing to eat/as far as I know, they never go out.”  A life in fear.  I understand that–anxiety has a strong force in everybody’s life.  Particularly if you are older, on a fixed income.  However, life gets pretty nasty when you just sit and wait for something horrible to happen.

“A vicious pain’s coming, they think./It will start in the head/and spread down to the bowels./They’ll be carried off on stretchers, screaming.”  Again, this couple is ruled by fear–so far there’s nothing to indicate that any of this will happen.  I think one of these things could happen, just as anything could happen, and I think the fear is that an event will occur that is beyond their means.  They are one step above the lowest rung, and that can be a pretty scary place to stand.

“In the meantime, they watch the street/from their fifth floor window./It has rained, and now it looks/Like it’s going to snow a little.”  I wonder if this couple talks about these fears or not, maybe they’re beyond talking about them.  Rather, they watch the street and comment on the weather.

“I see him get up to lower the shades./If their window stays dark,/I know that his hand has reached hers/just as she was about to turn on the lights.”  A moment of tenderness comes with the fear, and part of the reason for the fear is that they have each other.  Maybe they wouldn’t be so scared if they were apart, though they’d be desperately lonely.  Is that the choice?  Loneliness or fear?  If you have something you must protect it after all.  I’m not saying their choice is a bad one, in fact it seems like a right one, they endure this scary life for each other.    I just wish they didn’t have to endure fear so much.

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