David Shapiro
Dante and Beatrice (At Forty-Seven)

are kitsch six inches of a gold bronze toy
sculpture on my wife’s dead grandmother’s
delicate endtables ours
separated by a red grace and pink
candles and some smaller
horribly-shaped vegetable-like candles pointing
Dante looks like the mayor showing not pointing
of a small-town corruption
in a small cap he wears not against the
winter a cruel righteous careerist
grim as glucose and morose to boot
boasting of pride like a tiger on a street
Beatrice in nightgown her sin hope
a girl always about to go to bed
by herself and her long ringlets
as voluptuous as her nightgown
She is sexual and sad and refuses
to look at that businessman of words
all this is a gift from Mickey Mouse who
said when he saw them it had to be
for me Goofy who took the sleep
out of the Comedy and took the
flowers and took the fathers, too
until what was left for a fatuous cento
like a student who translates
all vulgarity into ancient Greek a mistake

So if a person loves you they could say
I want to be in Hell with you forever
like two bats summoned on a windy
word by a poet having a mid-life decision

Both are ready for bed after six centuries
of poetry and epic youth and new songs
but I don’t think they will do much
in bitter Riverdale like intense butterflies
She’s perhaps too much the mother of Christ
and he’s had a bad day in exile’s
office writing to Miss Stone a stone himsefl in grass
he has a vague memory of this golden
sister her beginning breasts like end-words
But his mind is intent on astronomical
details like halakhic investigations
She turns out to be my melancholy mother
hoping working for better schools for
black children in South Africa
and justice like a child’s story
This is a monstrous mixed marriage
and should be put an end to like a too-
accompanied sonata and before a dream
he’s a generation too old and she
should indeed sleep with Romeo/Marat dying
in her glorious lap like a bronze invasion
He is the terror of the last old poet alive

diplomat of letters and lives
plunging the real prayer into the unreal earth
And I in love with each word and her wordlessness
Her shadow on the white world down the wall
God is a candle

Found In Volume 29, No. 05
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David Shapiro
About the Author

David Shapiro has written some twenty volumes of poetry and literary and art criticism, including New and Selected Poems: 1965-2006 (2007). He has received grants and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, Princeton University and Columbia University, among others. Shapiro lives in the Bronx, New York.