Natalie Shapero

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.

Mostly Rasputin



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.