Walking Through the Woods the Poet Charles Simic Discusses Henry David Thoreau With his Dog


(A bird chirps from a tree branch. Another responds with a similar sound from a branch in a similar tree)

Charles Simic

Did you know that Moby Dick was based on a real, albino whale that terrorized sailors off the Chilean coast?

Charles Simic’s Dog

Get outta town. (Begins a bit of business)

CS

Yep. And Alice was a real girl.

CSD

C’est-à-dire?

CS

You’re my muse, Bud. In you I read the tell of the wolf. In Thoreau, the tell of the ape.

CSD

Sweet of you to say, Charlie. But still. (Finishes up, scratching something out and away from an imaginary den in an unimagined past). He cheated.

CS

What do you mean?

CSD

He visited the neighbours once a month and got ass-faced, it’s well documented, surprised you didn’t know. In wildness the preservation of the world — in drunkenness the preservation of man. Second part’s mine and you’re welcome.

CS

Hang on. You walk on all fours and drink from my toilet. What do you know about being a man?

CSD

Well, I’ve read your poems… About the women, and the wars, and the watermelon Buddhas — eat the smiles, spit-out the teeth. What else is there to know?

CS

Plenty. And the nut about women no one’s even begun to crack.

CSD

Bitches. Word.

CS

Yours, (coughs), not mine. But tell me, how do you manage reading? Practically speaking, I mean. Not having thumbs.

CSD

Kindle, iPad, either works. Auto scroll option, I can really crank it.

CS

Right. Next thing you’ll tell me you’re on Twitter.

CSD

I am, CSD@nuthinbutta, hit me up. Had a piece on Buzzfeed last week, click bait, granted, but pulled an obscene amounts of hits. You’d’ve been horrified and equally compelled.

CS

18 Assholes — How to Sniff and Tell. I saw it, believe me, I was.

CSD

Number fourteen was astonishing, though, right? Who woulda thought you could tell a Trump supporter just from a full nostril inhalation —

CS

Don’t. Please don’t.

CSD

Listen, Charlie, I know how you feel about the internet, about all the people who type in your poems without your permission or profit. I know how much you love it. I also know how you feel about the bot translations — all those Frenchmen in Paris embedding your Googleated masterpieces into smarmy Tweets just to take french women to bed. I know how happy that makes you. And all those nuns back in Serbia who, understanding the true nature of translation, turn your words not into other words but numbers for patterns for silk lingerie, to loom by the light of the moon. How-

CS

Alll right, alright. That’ll do, dog.

CSD

What I mean is, Charlie… We can’t help what we are. To the poet his poem, the dog his bone, and the internet its maelstrom of porn. In white and gold, blue and black, however you’re gonna see it, a woman’s ass ain’t ever gonna go out of style.

CS

Funny, most people just saw the dress.

CSD

Woof.

(A gust of wind shuffles leaves. The poet Charles Simic buttons his coat)

CS

Back to Twitter though, don’t get me wrong, I didn’t mean to imply that humanity is doomed. It’s just descending into a mutual masturbation I’d prefer not to watch. But you’re right, times have changed and there’s no going back. Whether or not Henry would’ve Instagramed isn’t interesting though, whether or not the world has Walden is. We can agree at least on that?

CSD

Yes, and blogging from the woods would be gauche, I also agree, good point. But if Thoreau spent two years in voluntary exile it wasn’t so much to separate himself as it was to eventually share the fruits of said separation. Not until we have lost the world do we begin to find ourselves.

CS

But how does one loose the world when it’s blabbing non-stop from one’s pocket? No. Let them have it, their digital simulacrum. If it’s not the end of wonder it is at least the end of me giving a further flying fuck.

CSD

Congratulations then, Charlie. You’ve done it.

CS

Done what?

CSD

You have lost the world.

(A murder of crows erupts from a fallow field.)

CS

(shouting) Well that’s just great then, fine! (not fine) What am I supposed to do about it now?

CSD

But that’s just it, Charlie, it’s not about you! Or me, or anyone else in particular. It’s about us, in general, as a whole. The answer is in Thoreau’s next sentence: To realise the infinite extent of our relations. So yo, I’ma let you finish, but that’s one of the best lines of all time. Like it or not, the whole Shebang, the Entire Shit and Shinola Show; we need to participate. We cannot sit it out. Had Thoreau been born after 1984, it is almost certain he would have had a social media presence and, by extension, a less disgusting beard.

(“Caww!” says a crow from beyond the line of trees. Charles Simic responds with a seemingly effortless, exquisitely crafted fart)

CS

Translate that, Google.

CSD

By the way, Charlie, and for the record: You are my favorite poet.

CS

Sweet of you to say, Bud. But still, we should pick up the pace. Helen’s making lunch, Wittgenstein’s Tractatus over spaghetti with littleneck clams — last thing we wanna do is be late.

(A bird chirps from a tree branch. Another responds with a similar sound from a branch in a similar tree)

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