Alan Shapiro

Sweet Nothings
February 25, 2022 Shapiro Alan

Sweet Nothings


I whispered to your offered ear
what you were whispering to mine.
I whispered what I thought


you wanted me to whisper,
not only not to disappoint,
but because I half-believed


that, if I said it, I might feel it
or something like it, near it,
less unrevealing, closer


to what I wanted to be feeling,
what I was sure you, whispering
back the same words, felt.


At such a distance
from that time and place,
how easy it is, even,


in a way, consoling,
to finally realize the fooling
had all along been mutual,


and that the whispered wished for
feelings we would later
blame each other


for not feeling were nonetheless
offered, if not in good faith,
not with the worst intentions,


with no betrayal to confess
besides this failure to
repay the debt


of a pretended, not
untender, tenderness
we led each other to expect.

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.