Passing and Violence
What pride I feel in America stems from our anthem
being the toughest one to sing. The high segment
with the red burn of the rocket: only a few
can reach. Watching a stranger parallel park, I pray
she abrades her neighbor. Watching football, I need
to see a man die. I need to see the intractable passing
and violence. Of the cruelty ringing the Earth,
I am a portion. I never said he was a bad man, only
a larger portion. He wreaked harm on us for years
and then one day he began to die. I watched as science
shattered his body to wrest the disease out, stopping
just short of his failure. Failure, the word
he favored over death. Me, I favored nothing over
death. I held him like a brother. I knew him as an error
of God, dropped at the doorstep of our age, and what
could we do but save him? I began to suspect so many
of machinations. How my parents had summoned me
into this world, but then when I arrived,
they were not here. My whole being was a set-up.
They called me over to sit alone with the weather
and soot, unfettered. They said I had differences to be
resolved. After attempting the anthem, upwards of fifty
percent remark, I should have started lower or I should
have chosen something else instead. Uneasy lies the head.
The Obligatory Making of Amends
Museums of war, they bore me. I’m in my thirties
and so already know every form of human
repugnance—only a child has anything there
to learn. And only a child should come to my play
about Heaven, how Heaven is given one year
to spend as it pleases, and elects to plummet
down here and live as a man. This means, of course,
a year without open Heaven, during which no one,
not even the lost, allows himself to die. People can
do that, you know—resolve to remain
until such-and-such date, for a christening or IPO
or whatever their thing is. But my primary fear
about dying is not missing Heaven. It is burial
beside a hateful tree. They are out there,
you know—high oaks whose limbs have offered
themselves for hangings, and I fear that my body
will slough itself down to feed one. This is how
I have spent my whole life. I have served yearlings
to tyrants. I have kept fat each war in this war
museum where only a child could hope to learn.
Because he’s the kind of doctor
who also can give pills, I do not fault him.
I’ve had lovers with others on the mind.
Charged with attention always, who could not drift
to, say, how untried cowboys may find kissing
unduly burdensome, due to the hats?
I have a specific question regarding dosage.
You hear about these people, mostly Rasputin,
imbued with enormity and a psychic block
when it comes to submitting to death. There’s never
a sufficiently tireless clubbing, never enough
cyanide in the wine. If I had to guess, I doubt
I’ll have that problem.
NATALIE SHAPERO is the author of No Object (Saturnalia, 2013), and her poems have appeared recently in The Awl, Copper Nickel, TYPO, and elsewhere. She lives in Gambier, OH, where she is a Kenyon Review Fellow.