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By John Frederick Nims

I’d have you known! It puzzles me forever   

To hear, day in, day out, the words men use,   

But never a single word about you, never.   

Strange!—in your every gesture, worlds of news.   

On busses people talk. On curbs I hear them;   

In parks I listen, barbershop and bar.   

In banks they murmur, and I sidle near them;   

But none allude to you there. None so far.


I read books too, and turn the pages, spying:   

You must be there, one beautiful as you!   

But never, not by name. No planes are flying   

Your name in lacy trailers past the blue   

Marquees of heaven. No trumpets cry your fame.   


Strange!—how no constellations spell your name!


John Frederick Nims, “Strange!” from The Powers of Heaven and Earth: New and Selected Poems. Copyright © 2002 by Bonnie Larkin Nims, Frank McReynolds Nims, Sarah Hoyt Nims Martin, and Emily Anne Nims. Used by permission of Louisiana State University Press.

Source: The Powers of Heaven and Earth: New and Selected Poems (Louisiana State University Press, 2002)

Poet Bio

An important translator and previous editor of Poetry magazine, John Frederick Nims was equally skilled as a poet. Although Nims was born in Michigan, he spent most of his life in Chicago. Generally a classicist in technique, Nims was also well known for his witty epigrams.