Song And Dance

By Alan R. Shapiro

Did you ever have a family?   
dining room,
                  bright kitchen,
                                        white steam
from the big pot my mother’s stirring
reaching in wavy tendrils to her face,
around her face, all the way around
to me at the table, then beyond me
into the darkness where my brother is.
Were you ever a child?
                                             I’m hungry
but I know we’ll
                         eat soon,   
even the hunger’s sweet.
Did you ever really have a brother?
                                                                  He’s singing
there in the dark
                                     beside the stereo,
the volume turned down so low
all we hear is him, his voice, and
his eyes are closed so that there’s
nothing around him anywhere
that might reveal he isn’t
who the song insists he is.
And that is?
                                              to whom
as in imaginary gardens
where “the nectarine and curious
peach into my hands themselves
do reach,” love comes as soon
as called, comes just as dreamed.
Did any of this ever happen?
                                                    The hunger’s
          it’s as if
                           the song weaves
through the fragrance of the braiding
steam from him to me to her
to me to him because her eyes
are closed now too; her
slippered feet tap, caper
a soft shoe while the ladle
sways in her hand as she stirs.
Were you ever a child?
                                             I know
I’ll eat soon.      
                           Did you ever really have a brother?
You should have      
                            heard him,   
                                              his voice was
unforgettable, irresistible, his voice
was an imaginary garden woven through with fragrance.
Did you ever have a family?
                                                   Their eyes are closed.
That’s how I know   
                              we’re there   
                                                   inside it,
it’s made of sound and steam
that weaves between dark
dining room, bright kitchen.
We’re there because I’m hungry,
and we’ll all be eating soon
together, and the hunger’s sweet.

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