Poems by Simeon Dumdum Jr.

On the Death of a Five-Year-Old

You'll need a board, one-by-eight-by-twenty,
A hammer, a saw.

To start,
Hold a thread on the child, vertically
For length, the shoulders for width.
Saw off the board on two benches to get
The back, the sides, the lid.
Put together with a handful of nails.

You haven't planed, or painted, or cut
Any edge - 
No coffin is ever a work of art.


Upon Seeing a Couple Kiss While I Am Taking Coffee Near the Airport

What if no one witnessed the couple’s quick kiss?
What if I was not in the coffee shop now,
Having cappuccino alone and gazing at those who pass by?

Coincidences mark the imprint of this hour.
Whether they be casual or one of great weight,
How could I tell? Only the kissers knew the import of their kiss.

Kisses I have known (and among them were yours,
I recall one when we were going upstairs,
That’s another story, however youthful, honest, a pure joy—

As I think all kisses must be if done here,
At a coffee shop just beside the airport).
Well, to them, the kissers, I raise this cup of coffee and my heart.


How I Want Picasso to Sketch Me

This is how Pablo Picasso
sketched Ella Fitzgerald.
Her breasts like the waves of Hokusai,
hair a cluster of grapes.
She tilts her head upwards
the way singers do
when belting a high note.
And the song that comes out of her mouth
is like cotton candy.
That’s Ella—pour Ella Fitzgerald,
Son ami, signed, Picasso.

This is how I want Picasso
to sketch me, chest flat, like the Shield
of Achilles but with no design,
a flat cap on my head,
eyes raised but wearing glasses,
lips slightly open,
a thought bubble above me
like a growing rain cloud,
and if he cannot make the sketch
(not the least because he is dead),
I can very well do it myself.
In grade school I was doing sketches
like that which he made of Ella,
but I am poor in forging signatures
and do not know French.


The First to Love

Always she is a step ahead.
When I think of giving her flowers,
She waylays me with wine-red roses.
And if I get up in the morning,
Pulled out of bed by the idea
Of a long walk across the fields,
She would be there, lacing her shoes,
The coffee, which was on my mind,
Filling up the room with its presence.
But one day, when there was a downpour,
I made sure I would be the first
To suggest that we have a race
In the rain, but she turned me down,
And I saw in her smile that we
Were too old for such recklessness.
But that afternoon, the sun blazed,
And she asked what just then had crossed
My mind, that we both go outside.
The road was a patchwork of water.
I wanted to help her across
A rain puddle, forgetting that
Her legs were longer than mine.


Love Makes the World Go Round

He was wild
In her sixth month, he had the map of the world
Tattooed on her.
And then, without saying goodbye,
He left for America.

In her trimester,
Her belly grew into a tight and shiny globe
The Northern Hemisphere stretched around
The North Pole of her navel.
She would rub the northern slope of her abdomen
And feel the kick of the fetus
Between the United States and Canada.
And then she would wonder
In which countries
He would be now.

Since then she’d had five men
In as many years—
And five children.
This was to keep her hands holding the globe
Of her belly.
This was her only way of feeling the world—
And of going
To America.