Alan Shapiro

Divorce Party Bonfire
August 21, 2019 Shapiro Alan

Divorce Party Bonfire


As in a secret rite, a ceremony in a book of legends, on a winter night they stand around a kind of pyre jerrybuilt from sticks and branches forgotten storms had littered the field with, logs doused in lighter fluid, cartons of dumped out depositions, snap shots, memorabilia, flammable knickknacks, talismans no longer magical, cards, effigies, early hand written love notes mixed with later printed texts and emails kept as evidence of fact, of counter fact, conditional appeasements giving way to bullet point conditions, nonnegotiable demands, bundles of pads of legal-size paper on which from page to page, as in a time lapse game of solitaire, the con columns keep getting longer while the pros shrink.

Instead of prayers, they each in turn say something funny, or try to, eager to prove what once was hard to swallow can be laughed at now even if the laughter sounds less wry than rueful: “I was so tired of being lonely, I got divorced.” “Forget love ‘m and leave ‘m, from now on I’m cutting straight to the division of property!” “Mine too was a screamer during sex, especially when I walked in on him.” Old pilgrims who have lost their way, yet still expect relief, if not rejuvenation, a great if brief unburdening, as if they all and not just one of them has dragged a feather mattress still imprinted with the ghost weight of sleeping bodies, from truck to field to fire pit and heave-hoed it so perfectly on top it smothers the frail, nascent flickering of match after match after match, which,

when it finally catches, brings no relief, no lightening, because the blaze gusts out everywhere at once through gaps and openings, and everybody has to step back from the sudden heat’s bright sirocco into a polar night so cold it only drives them forward again from colder back to hotter, back to colder, in a doeful goading, in and out of visibility, flickering on and off like herky-jerky gifs a faulty server on a flat screen in a feedback loop keeps coughing up and swallowing.

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.