Charles Simic's new collection of essays, The Renegade: Writings on Poetry and a Few Other Things hits book stands in April. Catch a sneak peek with this excerpt from his essay, "The Life of Images," originally published in the Harvard Review in 2003:
In one of Berenice Abbott's photographs of the Lower East Side, I recall a store sign advertising Silk Underwear. Underneath, there was the additional information about "reasonable prices for peddlers." How interesting, I thought. Did someone carry a suitcase full of ladies' underwear and try to peddle them on some street corner further uptown? Or did he ring doorbells in apartment buildings and offer them to housewives? I imagine the underwear came in many different sizes so he may have had to carry two suitcases. The peddler was most likely an immigrant and had difficulty making himself understood. What he wanted was for the lady of the house to feel how soft the silk was but she either did not understand him or she had other reasons for hesitating. She wore a house robe, her hair was loose as if she just got out of bed, so she was embarrassed to touch the undies draped over his extended hand. Then she finally did touch them.
(Image courtesy of the New York Public Library's Digital Collection)