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Alan Shapiro

Alan Shapiro

Alan Shapiro's new book, Reel to Reel, will be publihed in April 2014, by University of Chicago Press. His last book, Night of the Republic, was a finalist for both the National Book Award and the Griffin prize.

Toward Language

                         —for Charlie Baxter



Invisible inn we live inside,
that lives inside us, that not one of us
remembers ever entering, or knows
most of the time inside it that
we're even there inside it, talking
in sleep to one another as
we sleepwalk down the corridors
we dream our passing through
will brighten and warm.
                                        Anthill of sound,
the most accomplished of its drones
up the ever steepening slope
of it will spend a lifetime pushing
a tiny grain another drone
pushing another grain even tinier
will bury.
                Airy burial ground
out of a happenstance of mouths
it uses to confect its own emergence—
even the most intimate  
articulation summoned up
inside us isn't ours, and isn't
intimate, and yet without it
is there an ours at all?
                                    Is this what freedom is
inside this prison house, your hand
pressed up against the glass
my hand is pressing as we face
each other, each other's visitor
and inmate, as the hour grows late?
Tell me, before you go, or I do,
just what it is you see through this
transparent blindfold, this dividing
revealing mistrusted and yearned for
what next what now what not of
tell me and I'll tell you.

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