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Louis Simpson

Louis Simpson

Photo courtesy of the author’s estate


Nipkow and Cosulich
exported “seconds,”
items with small imperfections,
nylon stockings, ballpoint pens.

I packed them in cellophane or boxes,
then a carton to be shipped
to Europe for their postwar legs
and literary movements.

Nipkow had a sideline, diamonds.
He would sit at his desk by the hour
holding a diamond up to the light
or staring at some little ones
in the palm of his left hand.
He’d rise and grind a diamond
on the wheel. Then put on his coat
and go to meet someone like himself
with whom he would exchange diamonds,
each of them making a profit
somehow out of this.

One day I suddenly quit.
Then I worked on the Herald Tribune.
A reporter would call “Copyboy!”
And one of us would run over
and take his copy to the horseshoe
where the Count,
as we named him,
a bald head and rimless glasses,
presided over his crew.
One would read the piece in a hurry
and write a title for it,
so many letters, to fit.

My greatest adventure
was going to the fourteenth floor
of the Waldorf Astoria
to fetch copy about the flower show
at Madison Square Garden.

I quit that job suddenly too.
“You didn’t like the export business,”
said Sylvia Cosulich—
I was still seeing her
though her parents didn’t approve—
“and you don’t want to be a reporter.
What are you going to do?”

In the silence there were sounds
of the traffic down below,
the elevator opening.

the room seemed far away.
I was looking through a window
at clouds and trees.

And looking down again
to write, as I am now.


for J. R. S.

On US 101
I felt the traffic running like a beast,
Roaring in space.

The red princess slopes
In honeyed burial from hair to feet;
The sharp lifting fog
Uncurtains Richmond and the ridge
(With two red rubies set upon the bridge)
And curtains them again.

Ranching in Bolinas, that’s the life,
If you call cattle life:
To sit on a veranda with a glass
And see the sprinklers watering your land
And hear the peaches dropping from the trees
And hear the ocean in the redwood trees,

The whales of time,
Masts of the long voyages of earth,
In whose tall branches day
Hangs like a Christmas toy.

On their red columns drowse
The eagles battered at the Western gate;
These trees have held the eagles in their state
When Rome was still a rumor in the boughs.