My mother was a braid of black smoke.
She bore me swaddled over the burning cities.
The sky was a vast and windy place for a child
We met many others who were just like us.
They were trying to put on their overcoats with
arms made of smoke.
The high heavens were full of little shrunken
deaf ears instead of stars.
The opening stanza of "The World Doesn't End" (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich: $17.95; 74 pp.; 0-15-198575-8), a book-length poem that won the 1990 Pulitzer Prize for poetry. copyright 1990, Charles Simic. Reprinted by permission of Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.