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David Shapiro

Six poems

from A Burning Interior, Overlook Press, cloth , 128 pages, September 2002

button The Weak Poet
button Light Bulb
button After Three Chinese Poems
button A Poet Named Open
button Henry Hudson Looks at the Hudson
button After Poetry

In this issue of Jacket you can read:
button Thomas Fink: David Shapiro’s ‘Possibilist’ Poetry
button David Shapiro (in conversation with John Tranter, 1984)
button David Shapiro: Six poems (from A Burning Interior, 2000)
button Carl Whithaus — Immediate Memories: on the Poetry of David Shapiro
button Nathan Hauke: Meditations on David Shapiro: Memory and ‘Lateness’
button Kent Johnson: Poem Upon a Typo Found in an Interview of Kenneth Koch,
Conducted by David Shapiro
In Jacket 15: David Shapiro’s 1969 interview with the late Kenneth Koch.


The Weak Poet

for Michal Govrin


When a poet is weak,
like a broken microphone,
he still has some power,
indicated by a red light.

The weak poet
is fixed to the wall
like an ordinary light.

Dependent and dismal by turns,
he is a nominalist
and a razor blade
and a light.

And the demons cry,
Cast him from the kingdom
for a copy of a copy!

Remove him
like the women who supported the temple —
slaves too free and alive.
His similes are ingenious, like science among lovers.

My friend, however early
you called, you had come
too late, again.

The weak poet
has not gone grey
but his sacrificed similes
lead nowhere.

And his I is like any other word
in the newspaper and he is cut up
like fashion.

Each window was seductive,
but even his diseases could be cured.
Your low voice alone
is major like a skepticism.

We had forgotten
the place and the stories,
and the fiery method, too familiar, too distant.

We had memorized the poems,
but only for prison.
With the first new year celebrated in chaos
above the red waters of Paradise.

Where a clayey groom
hears the bride’s voice
like a stronger world —

Sound is all
a snake can do —
and charming sense
and strangeness.

Now the old poet
loses his voice like a garden.
But finds it again, like a street in a garden.

In the injured house
made of local sun and stone —
In the city of numbers
which everyone counts and hates and wants—

We could read together in a dark city garden,
scribbling with language over
screens like lips, scribbling the first mistranslations.

Back to the list of poems

Light Bulb

1960


Our father
restless afraid of death
would say You will rest
when you’re dead

Perhaps not!
And: Practice or you’ll eat
in the garage
with the dog

Dead as the light
bulb is living still
A secret for the light bulb
is the nap

of broken music
There are some veins
in brown plaster
But the world emits

a little light
You wore cereal boxes
as a belt
I wore electric light

as another mistake
The search continued
for more veins and
a dented skull

This too had a pedestal
or place
or base or double
door or triple tomb.

Back to the list of poems

After Three Chinese Poems

                                                     for Mr. Cong

One word tied to another word — that is all
You know. No cherryblossoms. In this world
The hospice workers visit the dead child.
His lack of a voice startles the sleeping words.

This world, fold upon fold.
Is there a better title for it?
Letting Go, Griefwork, Brightness Falls from the Air,
All the Angels Were There. She said it.

All night I think about my sister.
Galileo plunged into Jupiter.
O clear poetry!
No dust tonight.

Back to the list of poems

A Poet Named Open


We make mistakes

For example, I’m reading
The NYC Poetry Calendar
for April on this
metropolitan spring afternoon

And I read that today Cookie Mueller
whom I slightly know from an
argument with another poet
and also a review she did of
my Melancholy show
and Bernadette and Phillip Good
plus Open will be reading
I don’t know Open
I think it’s not Oppen who’s dead
and unfairly objectified
I guess it’s a young graffiti
Poet, perhaps taking a single
name, in 19th Century excess
They’re reading at the Anarchist Cellar
It’s a perfect name for a young
perhaps slightly jejune ethical anarchist
Then I see on the 16th Open is reading
again, this time with my friend Joe
Ceravolo and my former student Joe
Lewis

Now I’m really intrigued
It seems like a blitz, an Open blitz
perhaps he’s publishing his first
fundamentally daring volume
I think of my translation of
Baudelaire’s Luxe, calme et volupté
Rich calm and open
Why haven’t I thought of a decent
nom de plume like Open
Why settle down with four David
Shapiros
another living just a few blocks away
another painting in a style not mine
Perhaps this Open is the new
Rimbaud and uses my poems for
toilet paper, or perhaps we could
be friends, friends with Open

Again he appears at the Manhattan Public
Library
this time in lower case letters
and than again at Maxwell’s for $3
But my brain adjusts itself to the light

It’s simply an open reading that’s implied
This poet does not exist, though he should
Open a young poet I should have invented
as when I thought all of conceptual art
would have been decent as one short story
by B

Oh, Open, you whom I would have read,
and you who would have read me!

Back to the list of poems

Henry Hudson Looks at the Hudson


Henry Hudson turned to me and said:
Be expressionless and strong as me,
Be grim and green, stout as Cortez,
Double lock yourself within
Like a warning wife, and be divorced
From nothing, at last be a statue
Of a self, and threaten at night like a landing,
Turn to your river, like a monist on a raft,
And always found your river on a fault,
Be blind and copper, a mania on a column,
Obscured, finally, by a single cloud of brick.
I love you, that is why I do not talk
About your humorous desire to appease.
Rather complain, like a man, that there is no river.

Back to the list of poems

After Poetry

‘I want my son to grow powerful and rich through science.’ — Rimbaud


Now that I have given up poetry,
The guest of poetry,
Governed poetry,
Or rather that poetry has given up me,
Has queened my pawn, how green my pawn,
Or rather that poetry died in my lap,
Any lap, like a lousy lover
In another language, and I
A Luddite with a laptop in his lap

And now that my son is subtle
And malicious as a god any god.
And bestrides the dogmatic world
As if it were a tennis court

The clouds pass by, almost inhuman
Like passers-by, the mountains like
Churches and the churches like mountains
Beautiful and untranslatable a woman
Walks past the park like a street
Or a scream or a double and triple
Loss of meaning, and I thank whatever
Nothing we actually worship, to change
Nothing and the important thing: to leave
The world alone, largely uninterpreted
For the wet pavement
On which he may scratch his poems



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