Charles Simic

1938 / Belgrade

The Empress

My beloved, you who spend your nights
Torturing me
By holding up one mirror after another
To me in the dark,
If there's anything I know to say or do today,
I merit no praise for it,
But owe it to the subtlety of your torments,
And your perseverance in keeping me awake.

All the same, who gave you the right
To judge me in my wretchedness?
What soul white as snow
Compiled this endless list of misdeeds
You read to me every night?
The airs you put on when I tell you to stop
Would make one believe
You were once a bedmate of a Chinese emperor.

I like it best when we do not say a word.
When we lie side by side
Like two lovers after their passion is spent.
Once again, day is breaking.
A small bird in the trees is pouring her heart out
At the miracle of the coming light.
It hurts.
The beauty of a night spent sleepless.
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