The significant end was approaching.
Nobody said as much on television
but everybody felt it. Maybe
that was because the President was a
religious man and was transmitting
unconsciously to the people something
he deeply believed. It was not the mounting
deaths or the sinking dollar. It was not
anything political or national. Scripture,
in those dark days, glowed like uranium.
It’s President Bush’s birthday, and in the packed hall
Terri Schiavo is singing to George Bush
with the same voice Marilyn Monroe used to sing
Happy Birthday to Jack Kennedy. When suddenly
a terrified voice calls out: “She can’t be singing,
she’s dead.” And President Bush steps forward
and says: “She’s singing because she loves me.”
Bare but numinous trees,
even in winter, even in the city,
feeding on cement but bearing
the whole burden of the air
and the misery that seeps from the stones
and from those who wander among them.
Of all the different kinds of light
I like it best when dark comes on,
near-dark, on the river and the town
when the lights along the bridge
become jewel-like and shine for me
as they did before, when my heart was whole
and I began my journeying.
Memories, like ancient ruins, I visit them.
Lost in the city a lifetime.
Street dark with rain and black umbrellas.
In Brooklyn , sky lightens over water.
Savage gulls ride the current, eyes bright for spoil.
Fever, like the edge of a desert.
To see the dawn and the broad ocean.
I have little blood left
and a little money.
When they’re gone
I’m out of here.
I have sat among the wheel-chaired dead
of America, their diapers clean, their smiles bright.
All of them, as in life, huddled before the giant screen.
at the hospital.
The night has wings
but also wounds and death.
Harvey Shapiro’s most recent book is Poets of World War II, which he edited for the Library of America. Forthcoming is his The Sights Along the Harbor: New and Collected Poems, which Wesleyan will publish in January. It collects his work from 1953 to the present.
Harvey Shapiro has published 11 books of poetry. His most recent is How Charlie Shavers Died and Other Poems (Wesleyan University Press, June 2001). He is now working on a new manuscript. Since the 1950s, he has worked at The New York Times, both as editor of Book Review and as an editor of Times Magazine, where he is still currently a consulting editor.