Madison, Wisconsin

31 May 2008

Five Poems

Rule Book
The Confrontation  
The Argument
A Day in the Life
In the Absence of Metaphor

About Lauren Shapiro



Rule Book

At the age of ten you will be allowed
in the deep end. 52 inches will get you
on Thunder Mountain. You must be 13
with perfect vision to ride all-terrain vehicles.
Please, no unsupervised children. No idiots.
No mentally deranged wantons. We do allow
two siblings for the price of one on Wednesdays.
Eight Young-At-Heart’s for the price of seven
on Sunday at 2 pm. Please understand that
we cannot make exceptions. The rule is
you must be 6’2’’ with a chiseled profile
and brooding eyes. Size 32-C or larger to get
on the show. We do not accept coupons
or offer refunds. I sympathize
but just came out of surgery myself.
My kid is also sick. Are your eyes
at least two inches apart? We’re really looking
for someone with a better sense of the absurd
who is naturally blonde. Don’t feel bad,
we accept less than 1% of applicants.
Are you emancipated? On Atkins?
Have you checked all categories that apply?
Please don’t call to hear your status.
The process is fully automated, so
you should receive your results in the mail.



The Confrontation

It is morning. The back roads of Pullman
wake up like a five o’clock shadow. Murray
comes outside. He’s carrying a machete.
Put it away, Murray, I say.
He’s got two little kids like pigtails
wandering over to us. I look at the kids.
Their hair is tangled. They have boogers.
I’m breaking that asshole’s car, says Murray.
There is a pause. Liberation! shout the children.
Their eyes are glazed pecans. The sun goes
from pink to yellow like a magic trick.
Cathy peers out, a convict in a dark house.
She won’t be back. I’ll slash his tires!
I’ll crush his mirrors! He doesn’t move.
The kids are pop rocks in soda—up and down,
up and down, up and down.
Kill the beast! Eat its heart! they yell.
I look up. It’s only Tuesday.
The traffic light turns from flashing red
to red, yellow, green. A neighbor
gets in his car and leaves for work.
We stand there. Murray’s stomach growls.
Murray, I say. Just put it away.



The Argument

I make a sign and you look at it.
Then you make a bigger sign.
There are exclamation points
on your sign. I use ellipses.
It took a long time to make these signs
and we are exhausted.
I drink some juice and fall asleep
on the couch. You pace around.

When I wake up, you are passed out
on the rug and the rough fiber loops
are pocking your face. It is suddenly
winter and we both seem old.



A Day in the Life

Entering a plague-ridden Marseilles, Nostradamus saw a woman sewing herself into a shroud. Later people would speak of the times as the times and bow their heads like cattle. They would wipe their faces with fresh blades of grass and whisper to the roly-polys who were squirming now flat now circular in the mud. Nostradamus knew this though it had not happened yet. He calculated the distance between the woman and where air was tiptoeing backwardly into his nose. He reasoned with himself and won the argument. The woman was half-way done with her sewing. She was using a blind-hem stitch that had fallen out of style two years before. This and many other things became apparent to Nostradamus all at once. His mind grew cloudy with the weight of his perceptions in a manner with which he was all too familiar. This again, he thought, and hit his right ear with the scroll of paper he had been clutching. All over Marseilles people alive and dead reverberated with the movement. The woman dropped her hand and grew lighter. She had succeeded in sewing the shroud up to her nose. What a beautiful nose, thought Nostradamus.



In the Absence of Metaphor

It is hard to sit on a hill and look up it.
I said this yesterday to Jane
as she was chopping onions
but she just kept chopping.
So many things we say just
sound good. “Why don’t you look down
the hill then,” says Jane.
There is a peel of onion
stuck to the length of her blouse
that is missing a button. All of a sudden
it is the saddest thing.
I spend all day looking down
the hill, and all the next day and
the day after looking down the hill.
It is the same tree and the same spent lilac bush
surrounded by swamp grass. One day
there is a rabbit. Then nothing.



Lauren Shapiro received a BA in comparative literature from Brown University and an MFA in poetry from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she held the Iowa Arts Fellowship. Before moving to Iowa, she worked as an associate editor in acquisitions at the Yale University Press and as a reader for the Yale Younger Poets Series.  Lauren’s poems have appeared in POOL, Passages North, and 32 Poems, among other publications. In addition, she has translated work from Italian, Spanish, Vietnamese, and Arabic into English. Currently, she is an assistant professor at Herzing College in Madison, Wisconsin, where she lives with her fiance Kevin and their dog Maddy.