More dream now than memory, though memory is all it is: after an early dinner, I’m dropping them off at their cottage, beside the artificial pond in the retirement community she loves and he hates. Families of geese are crossing in front of us as they get out of the car: he’s in a beige windbreaker and floppy safari hat, she in a washed out housedress and sweater, holding the Styrofoam box of left overs in one hand, the other jiggling the key into the lock, while, nearly blind, he waits behind her, hand on her elbow clutching the fabric of the sweater the way a child does to steady or reassure himself, till she opens the door, and, entering, gently pulls him in behind her. Just that and nothing else, the end of another unremarkable, dutiful evening of getting them out, of eating out for a change, eating something other than what he calls that slop you wouldn’t feed a dog, so they could sit in a restaurant saying nothing, heads bent rabbinically over plates, as if in study of the fork, machine-like, going slowly up and slowly down. I watch the door close on another outing, another week of filial acquittal, eager to resume my life but for some reason this time I don’t immediately drive away. I’m staring at the door that’s closed behind them, as if it were the border of the known world on an ancient map beyond which someone has scrawled: “Here be Monsters!”—I picture him still in windbreaker and safari hat clinging to the fabric at her elbow as she leads him shuffling into chaos howling across a vast savannah inside the cottage while out here in the falling night geese cluster in the road in front of me, defiant, unyielding, even as I pull out edging forward, honking the horn, leaning on it hard now, yet all they do is squawk and shit and waddle every which way without dispersing.
Alan Shapiro has published many poetry collections (most recently Reel to Reel, finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, and Night of the Republic, finalist for both the National Book Award), 4 books of prose, including The Last Happy Occasion, finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, and Broadway Baby, a novel. Winner of the Kingsley Tufts Award, LA Times Book Prize, an award in literature from The American Academy of Arts and Letters, he will bring out two books in 2016: Life Pig, a book of poems, and That Self-Forgetful Perfectly Useless Concentration, essays on convention, suffering and self-expression.