Daniel Simpson


Listen to the audio version.

They blow the whistle by my house
and a long way down the track.

They don't blow it at yours.
I know that from sitting on your lawn.

The train that lumbers to a start near me
whooshes by the far end of your yard.

Today, I tried to see how long I could hear it.
I was surprised how loud it was so far away–

surprised as when a New York FM station
made me think I was hearing Radio France.

I imagined the train passing by your place;
I can't exactly say when it faded.

What if I called you up some day
and you stood outside with your cordless phone,

perhaps the same one your old boyfriend rang
that broke the spell I had fallen under?

(You were sleeping on a blanket.
I was sitting near you, reading poems.)

Would we be able, together, to subtract
the rails between your home and mine?

* * *


Listen to the audio version.

From the family room, a man hands out box after box,
His half of their dishes, records and books,
To friends who are helping him leave his wife.
He will miss the way she nurtures each rose
In her garden, the way she caresses the keys
Of her piano, the way she loves this house.

But he can no longer live in this house
Which confines him increasingly like the locked metal box
Made for Houdini — no exit, no keys.
He has searched for an answer in therapy and books,
One that would bloom overnight like a rose,
One that would free him to stay with his wife.

He was not a bad husband, nor she a bad wife.
They were just two college kids with the dream of a house,
Maybe a little girl, (they could call her Rose),
Perhaps a big picture window with a flower box,
And a cozy library for all of their books.
To have a house of their own with two sets of keys

Seemed like the path to maturity, as if having those keys
Could unlock the secrets of being husband and wife,
Things only guessed at from reading books
About a hero and heroine with a castle for a house.
Their disappointment leaked from some Pandora's box
In their hearts, swelling in volume until it rose

To blot out the beauty of each blood-red rose
And muffle the music from the ivory keys.
The man went to the gym to work out and box,
Hoping to reduce tension between him and his wife.
She tried cooking fancy meals, redecorating the house
And buying him records and gadgets and books.

When all seemed in vain, they balanced their check books
And stayed up nights talking until the sun rose
About where they'd gone wrong, who'd get the house,
And the fun on their honeymoon in the Florida Keys.
They cried about not being husband and wife
And how the house, for the man, had turned into a box.

Now, box by box, he is closing the books
On this life with the wife who loves the rose,
This life handed over with his keys to the house.

* * *


Listen to the audio version.

How high would I have to fly
before the Cathedral of Sacré-Coeur
would seem to fit between my fingertips,
the way you do?

Its marble, smoother than any woman
I touched in Paris, kept calling my fingers back,
the way its ceiling called others' eyes.

When my lover gave you to me, she said,
"This is my heart. Take. Keep.
Do this in remembrance of me."

Oh, stone, you Sacré-Coeur,
you'll make a responsible man of me,
one who must take care of what is sacred.
It troubles me how easily
you can fall out of my pocket.


Daniel Simpson served as lyricist for "A Song Everyone Can Sing," a composition for five choirs which received its premier performance this March. In 2017, he and his wife, Ona Gritz, collaborated on two books, as co-authors of Border Songs: A Conversation in Poems and as co-editors of More Challenges for the Delusional: Peter Murphy's Prompts and the Writing They Inspired. School for the Blind, his first collection of poems, came out in 2014. This September, W. W. Norton and Company will release About Us: Essays from the Disability Series of The New York Times, which includes two of Simpson's pieces.