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By Alan R. Shapiro

Over an edge of cloud the naked angel

blasts his long horn downward and they rise,

or try to, skeletons, half-skeletons,

the still-fleshed bodies of the newly dead,

rising and pushing up the stone lids, heaving

the crypt doors open, clambering over one

another, dumbstruck, frightened, warily peeking

out from inside tombs, or out of ditches,

their eye holes blacker than the black they peek from

while some reach out of habit for a robe

to hide a nakedness they have no longer,

a phantom shame that must be all the bones

remember of the living flesh they were,


and all of them worn away to nearly nothing,

more wisp of form than form, more wraith than wisp,

as if before your eyes they’re sinking into

what they’re rising out of, coming into view

by fading from it, there and gone, as if

the very stone, unsure of what it holds,

can neither cling to nor relinquish now

the dream of something in it more than stone,

other than hard or heavy, as over the face

of it the air of a wished-for morning ripples

the robes to water while it washes through

the skulls and half-skulls tilted back to see

just what the noise is that won’t let them sleep.


Source: Poetry (February 2016)

Poet Bio

Born in Boston, Massachusetts, Alan Shapiro was educated at Brandeis University. During Bill Clinton’s presidency, Shapiro was invited to read his work at the White House. He read “On Men Weeping,” a poem about Michael Jordan winning one of his six NBA championships. Shapiro has taught at Stanford University, Northwestern University, and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. As the author of numerous collections of poetry, Shapiro has explored family, loss, domesticity, and the daily aspects of people’s lives in free verse and traditional poetic forms.

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