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by Alan Shapiro

Two lovers talking on the phone, at night,
ear pressed to the receiver pressed to ear

for the half whispering voices that are clearer
for being quiet, even more intimate

somehow for being far away. The timbre,
pitch and exact inflection of who they are

in saying what they want, what they would do
if they were there together has never been

so audible; as if the sheer voice stripped
of body were revealing something about

the nature of their love not just for bodies,
but of his body for hers, and hers for his,

the lovers never more exactly there
though less material, never more held,

more truly clung to than in separation—
I wish I could take you in my mouth right now—

I wish your lips were here—the voices hungry,
ghost-like, and won’t it be like this one day,

only the voice returning to the stark bed,
voice rising up from where nobody rises,

your voice or mine, to haunt us as tonight
our voices haunt the hand that moves like the lips

that speak the words of what the lips would do?


Alan Shapiro’s most recent book of poems, Song and Dance, was published by Houghton Mifflin in 2002. His translation of The Oresteia by Aeschylus will be published by Oxford in 2003. (5/03)

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