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About this Poem 
“‘Vantage’ is a poem about leaves jockeying with each other for whatever light there is in a rather dense understory. The poem within the poem, so to speak, is about the hunger of all living things to perpetuate themselves, at every level, at any cost.”
—Alan Shapiro

Vantage

Alan Shapiro, 1952
From where I watch, there are no highest leaves,
no leaves that don’t have over them more leaves 
impeding what they open up and out for, 

darkening downward as they feed on green 
diminishments, as if dark, if it still
can darken, could be itself the light 

the darker leaves beneath are hungry for.
From where I watch even the shade hungers
And is hungered after—all along the chain 

past bark, root, leaf, ghost speck of leaf,     
microbial scrapings, and beyond them, flakes 
chipped off of flakes off of a now- 

no-longer anything sucked dry, unsifted 
and unsiftable into so fine a green 
even the dark shines through. What’s hunger but

a hole to fill, gravity of a self-
consuming self-proliferating blind
and densely tangled maze of this from that,

from this, somewhere inside of which a cry
for mercy isn’t heard, or is, and the jaws shut, 
and the very dirt becomes the dirt of it. 

Copyright © 2014 by Alan Shapiro. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-a-Day on April 21, 2014. Browse the Poem-a-Day archive.

Copyright © 2014 by Alan Shapiro. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-a-Day on April 21, 2014. Browse the Poem-a-Day archive.

Alan Shapiro

Alan Shapiro

Shapiro has published over ten poetry collections, including Reel to Reel (University of Chicago Press, 2014); Night of the Republic (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012), a finalist for the 2013 Griffin Poetry Prize and National Book Award; and Old War (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2008), winner of the Ambassador Book Award.

by this poet

poem
It may not be
the ghostly ballet
of our avoidances
that they’ll remember,
nor the long sulks
of those last months,
nor the voices
chilly with all
the anger we
were careful mostly
not to show
in front of them,
nor anything
at all that made
our choice to live
apart seem to us
both not only
unavoidable
but good,
poem
What was it like before the doctor got there?

Till then, we were in the back seat of the warm
dark bubble of the old Buick. We were where 
we'd never not been, no matter where we were.

And when the doctor got there?

Everything outside was in a rage of wind and sleet, 
we were children, brothers
poem
after the downpour, in the early evening,
late sunlight glinting off the raindrops sliding
down the broad backs of the redbud leaves
beside the porch, beyond the railing, each leaf
bending and springing back and bending again
beneath the dripping,
			between existences,
ecstatic, the souls grow mischievous, they