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Bush Poem, City Poem, Hospital Poem

Bush Poem

The significant end was approaching.

Nobody said as much on television

but everybody felt it. Maybe

that was because the President was a

religious man and was transmitting

unconsciously to the people something

he deeply believed. It was not the mounting

deaths or the sinking dollar. It was not

anything political or national. Scripture,

in those dark days, glowed like uranium.

It’s President Bush’s birthday, and in the packed hall

Terri Schiavo is singing to George Bush

with the same voice Marilyn Monroe used to sing

Happy Birthday to Jack Kennedy. When suddenly

a terrified voice calls out: “She can’t be singing,

she’s dead.” And President Bush steps forward

and says: “She’s singing because she loves me.”

City Poem


Bare but numinous trees,

even in winter, even in the city,

feeding on cement but bearing

the whole burden of the air

and the misery that seeps from the stones

and from those who wander among them.


Of all the different kinds of light

I like it best when dark comes on,

near-dark, on the river and the town

when the lights along the bridge

become jewel-like and shine for me

as they did before, when my heart was whole

and I began my journeying.


Memories, like ancient ruins, I visit them.

Lost in the city a lifetime.

Street dark with rain and black umbrellas.

In Brooklyn , sky lightens over water.

Savage gulls ride the current, eyes bright for spoil.

Fever, like the edge of a desert.

To see the dawn and the broad ocean.

Hospital Poem

I have little blood left

and a little money.

When they’re gone

I’m out of here.

I have sat among the wheel-chaired dead

of America, their diapers clean, their smiles bright.

All of them, as in life, huddled before the giant screen.

Helicopter traffic

at the hospital.

The night has wings

but also wounds and death.

Harvey Shapiro’s most recent book is Poets of World War II, which he edited for the Library of America. Forthcoming is his The Sights Along the Harbor: New and Collected Poems, which Wesleyan will publish in January. It collects his work from 1953 to the present.


Harvey Shapiro

Harvey Shapiro has published 11 books of poetry. His most recent is How Charlie Shavers Died and Other Poems (Wesleyan University Press, June 2001). He is now working on a new manuscript. Since the 1950s, he has worked at The New York Times, both as editor of Book Review and as an editor of Times Magazine, where he is still currently a consulting editor.


The Brooklyn Rail

SEPT 2005

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