Alan Shapiro

Let Me Hear You
September 5, 2015 Shapiro Alan

Let Me Hear You


I am the disappearing point of an inverted pyramid

made from the two

before me, and the four before them

whom I know as only names

and snapshots, and farther back not even that, a

total namelessness fans out

without face or fact, no date,

no single anecdote, or artifact,

barely a hundred years away

the family slate wiped back

into a clean abyss, a cenotaph

of lives only my body remembers

in ways I can’t know about

even as I pass them

through me to my children

who through them will pass them on

to theirs, and theirs,

while I sink further back into no longer being known–


as if what even now I can’t help think of

as the stately name-emblazoned

marble manor house of self

had all along been nothing but

a hut made not from mud or

even straw but

bits of ever changing

string which

self is just the precious puppet of

no puppeteer is pulling

blown about in planetary winds

no one can feel.


Outside is inside now.

The pyramid whose point

we are is weightless

and invisible

and has become itself the night

in which alone


on a high plateau

we go on shouting

out whatever name

those winds keep blowing back

into the mouth that’s shouting it.

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.