Letting the days go by, letting the water hold me down


Since quite clearly the world is now engaged

Upon a final war between creatures


And robots, it occurred to me to take

A walk along the scotched bluff above


Rocky Bay, descending Indian Trail

To the mushroom-shaped volcanic plug


Where I would sit, wash my feet, and see

If I could catch a spring squid, before


The short-fins migrated south, following

The lobsters under refracted starlight. 


I asked my house: House, how do I snag

A squid?  And, once snug, how do I cook it?


A song sparrow stuttered and the screen door

Sang in the lightning-bit wind.   Just that. 


I had never been sure whose side

The house was on.  That was my answer. 


The future of voices


Each night I prune

      your bandages


Careful not to tear

      your bark


From the hound

That guards our wounds.

An edifiable moment


There came a point in the poetry anthology where everyone to the left was dead and everyone to the right was alive—save one who had died young and one who was living long.  I instructed my students to rip these poets from the book and let them swap places.   I provided thread and glue.  After, I asked them to open their anthology—from the Greek: anthologia; flower gathering—to the point where everyone to the left was dead and everyone to the right was alive. Caesura, I said. A pause in a line of verse, from the Latin: a cutting.


Our lady of Vladimir

Late night.  A spartan apartment.  VLADIMIR sits atop a table.  He’s middle-aged, dressed in a concert t-shirt and pajama bottoms.  Next to him is a birdcage, draped in red.  The floor is covered with light bulbs.  Every 5 seconds—the shatter of a single bulb.

Vladimir: My neighborhood.  (Pause.)  A report by Vladimir.  (Pause.)  I look out my window and see Abraham leading Isaac to slaughter practice.  It must be 3.  You can set your watch by those two.  I envy them; I never did much with my old man.  By the time he got home from the rubber plant, he was beat.  He’d go up to the roof and drink root beer and teach his parrot fun facts to repeat to Martians or God in case mankind went Poof.  (Pause.)  The waiters from the Indian joint are having a smoke in the alley their restaurant shares with the dry cleaner.  When I was a boy I wanted to become the kind of man who takes his Arrow shirts to the laundromat and carries them home in cardboard boxes.  Instead I’m a lug that stuffs his tandoori-stained tees in the trash compactor, rather than wash them. (Pause.)  Lucas, the pawnshop owner, tapes a sign to his door: Back in 30.  He totes a violin to the park and hands it to its former owner, a man so pale I once mistook him for a pillar of fog.  He’ll play, mostly Schumann, until Lucas whistles and the fiddle flies back to its shelf.  (Pause.)  I have this dream: I buy the instrument and convert it into a boat that I sail over the swan pond, tooting my horn at the pale man.  (Pause.)  I know, so cruel—but we can’t overcome our dreams.  (Pause.)  Why not?  (Pause.)  Isaac’s listening to “Cradlesong,” and licking a Creamsicle.  I prefer choco tacos.  Abe’s on the cell, getting an earful from God.  But then he smiles and tussles his kid’ s hair.  All’s forgiven.  Once again.  Ibid, ibid.  Though, the sky looks unpromising—like hard rain.  (He rubs his head against the covered birdcage.)  The parrot settles on my shoulder and squawks: “A Rhode Island Red that was to be a farmer’s chicken salad lived 17 years with its head cut off.”  (Pause.)  So don’t complain.  (Pause.)  No guff.  (Pause.)  Not one word.


The shattering quickens. 






Peter Jay Shippy is the author of Thieves' Latin (University of Iowa Pres, 2003) Alphaville (BlazeVOX Books, 2006), and How to Build the Ghost in Your Attic (Rose Metal Press, 2007). He teaches literature at Emerson.