"Wherever My Dead Go When I'm Not Remembering Them"

A weekly poem, read by the author.
July 13 2010 6:58 AM

"Wherever My Dead Go When I'm Not Remembering Them"

Click the arrow on the audio player to hear  Alan Shapiro read this poem. You can also download the recording or subscribe to Slate's Poetry Podcast on iTunes.
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Not gone, not here, a fern trace in the stone
of living tissue it can quicken from;
or the dried–upchannel and the absent current;
or maybe it's like a subway passenger
on a platform in a dim lit station late
at night between trains, after the trains have stopped—
ahead only the faintest rumbling of
the last one disappearing, and behind
the dark you're looking down for any hint
of light—where is it? why won't it come? You
wandering now along the yellow line,
restless, not knowing who you are, or where,
until you see it; there it is, at last
approaching, and you hurry to the spot
you don't know how you know is marked
for you, and you alone, as the door slides open
into your being once again my father,
my sister or brother, as if nothing's changed,
as if to be known were the destination.
Where are we going? What are we doing here?
Youdon't ask, you don't notice the blur of stations
we're racing past, the others out there watching
in the dim light, baffled,
who for a moment thought the train was theirs.

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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.