Alan Shapiro

May 8, 2015 Shapiro Alan



Bent over the plate, she studies

the tremor in the hand that

holds the fork that

lifts the food that,

when it’s lifted, trembling,

spills back to the plate.


Head down, puzzling it out,

she doesn’t see

and while she doesn’t

maybe isn’t there

in the lunch room hearing

the linoleum echo

of the half words and

disconnected phrases

others at the table

say to no one

in response to nothing.


She could be pondering how wide

the gulf is between

tine and tongue, and cup and lip,

or why it is the hand won’t

hear her, won’t listen, is it

deaf, or stubborn,

a stubborn brat holding its breath

and shaking till it gets its way

though it won’t tell her

what its way is,

what it wants from her.

And as she stares it down

as if by staring she might

shame it into being hers again,

or untangle the knotted

up enigma

of how the present had been

always only present

even while it carried her

from house to cottage to

apartment to

this linoleum-echo

of disconnection

in a lunch room

of strangers in a home

that isn’t

with a hand that won’t

stop shaking from the fork

whatever food is

being lifted to her mouth.

Alan Shapiro is the author of 13 books of poetry, two memoirs, a novel, a book of critical essays and two translations. His awards include the Kingsley Tufts Award, 2 NEAs, a Guggenheim and a Lila Wallace Reader’s Digest Award. His newest book of poems, Life Pig, was published in 2016 along with a book of essays, That Self-Forgetful Perfectly Useless Concentration, both from University of Chicago Press. He is the William R. Kenan, Jr. Distinguished Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of North Carolina.