"Triumph"

"Triumph"

"Triumph"

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A weekly poem, read by the author.
April 8 2008 7:29 AM

"Triumph"

Listen to Alan Shapiro read this poem.


I saw him as I drove by—
I don't have to tell you what he looked like—
Spreading a plastic sheet out
As for a picnic
Except he wasn't picnicking;
He was lying down to sleep
In the middle of the sidewalk
In the middle of the day
On a busy street,
The spoils of him lying there
For everyone to gawk at
Or step around.
And when I drove by later
The same day, and then again still later
Late that night,
He was still there, sleeping,
And maybe I slowed down
To check on him or got him at least a blanket,
Or called an ambulance,
But whatever I did or didn't do
I did it to forget that
Either way
He was the one asleep on the sidewalk,
I was the one borne along in the car
That may as well have been a chariot
Of empathy, a chariot
The crowd cheers
Even as it weeps
For the captured elephant too wide
To squeeze through
The triumphal arch
And draw home
To bed my sweet
Sensitive Caesar of a soul.

Alan Shapiro will publish two books in 2011: Night of the Republic, a book of poems, and Broadway Baby, a novel. His last book of poems, Old War, won the 2009 Ambassador Book Award in poetry.