about the author

Glenn Shaheen is the author of the poetry collections Predatory (U of Pitt Press, 2011) and Energy Corridor (U of Pitt Press, 2016), and the flash collection Unchecked Savagery (Ricochet Editions, 2013). Individual pieces have appeared in The Cincinnati Review, Ploughshares, The New Republic, and elsewhere.

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Three Poems 

Glenn Shaheen


A dollar to the man who cleans the street,
a fist for any hand that begs—it’s such
a compliment when called upon to meet

a sudden need, slivers of advice to clutch
against the tongue, dissolving candy. I
appreciate your words and yet your touch

is spiders on my skin. With all our time
we should each figure it all out, from God
to trigonometry to sex. I try

and break, the game ball is punctured, is flawed,
is counted on for motion. It’s about
assistance, yes. A dollar for applause,

and eyes from every corner in the South—
to wish those eyes, to wish those eyes fucked out.

Artificial Heat

From the vents—the air colluding about
us. From the pamphlet—is good, natural
truth a pedagogical soundness? Grasps in
the mottled dusk. Various mixtures
of fleshes among the sheets. A clear glass
of water obscured by fingerprints. What
liberties shall we take? Our breaths bounce
against each others’ backs, our voices
stammering. Composers in the contemporary
mode can create common time pieces
using the familiar rhythms of any home.
What use are voices stripped of syntax?
Animals in the dark, soft skin in some moments,
an uncut nail in others. Allow un petit peu
de teaching. You will be directed in minor
mannerisms. In society we all do good,
we all do a little good when called upon
in a public manner. Percentages in light.
A hitchhiker left on the highway because
isn’t that the sound choice? Flags on lapels,
bites in the air, collisions on country roads.
When ill or struck the body translates
everything as pain, the walls, the yarn,
the sheets suddenly drained of comfort and
sickening on the skin. Is somebody pleased
we suffer pain they also suffer? We’re not
bad off. The house moved two hundred
feet from the bluff—if any of the dishes
tumbled from the cupboard during
the transition we would know for certain
the foundation of the house was ruined.

Total Loss

The phone rang and you were out

of danger but you had to relate
          the danger to me—the threat,

the caving door, the car that pummeled you from
          the side—and your voice was fine

          but I thought danger and what else

was there but to imagine an array
          of potential states—the car with a small
dent, the car garbled and unrecognizable.
          The danger was the line
between me

          and you, it was only a half mile—
          danger if that. The news
today said that the youth

have been taken by a great craze

for fool’s

          gold—they know it’s fake but that’s the charm—the youth
are always taken. What if I had stopped

to present you with
          a fool’s gold necklace for a few

seconds—you could have missed
          the danger or been placed in greater
danger, the car a few feet

          on either side, the intersection a shifting equation—

our luck shall be determined
by the alignment of the planets, all

of our planets aligned the same, both
teams praying for victory on the field, voices

from half-sleep and the comfort in them wafting

          down the hall. I know when

people should be calling, the phone
          is a device of skitter and pause.

I typed on a computer for a year whose
          ‘E’ key didn’t work and I had to hit
          it extra hard like an emphasis,
          I made a rhythm of typing—it’s easy to worry

about the status of each other, arrays
          of potential states, it’s easy to worry

about danger—a snake or a stuffed rendition of a snake—

          there are terrible acts we all have to
                     accept just to get on with life—worries,

keys, the possibility of belief in danger,

our potential for danger, riches just around each corner that crush us slowly.

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