Night of the Republic

Night of the Republic

By:  Alan Shapiro

An urgent and timely collection by one of America’s most inventive and accessible poets In Night of the Republic, Alan Shapiro takes us on an unsettling night tour of America’s public places—a gas station restroom, shoe store, convention hall, and race track among others—and in stark Edward Hopper–like imagery reveals the surreal and dreamlike features of these familiar but empty night spaces. Shapiro finds in them not the expected alienation but rather an odd, companionable solitude rising up from the quiet emptiness. In other poems, Shapiro writes movingly of his 1950s and 60s childhood in Brookline, Massachusetts, with special focus on the house he grew up in. These meditations, always inflected with Shapiro’s quick wit and humor, lead to recollections of tragic and haunting events such as the Cuban missile crisis and the assassination of JFK. While Night of the Republic is Shapiro’s most ambitious work to date, it is also his most timely and urgent for the acute way it illuminates the mingling of private obsessions with public space.

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  • Format: eBook

  • ISBN-13/EAN: 9780547607832

  • ISBN-10: 0547607830

  • Pages: 80

  • Price: $9.99

  • Publication Date: 01/31/2012

  • Carton Quantity: 1

Alan Shapiro

Alan Shapiro

ALAN SHAPIRO is the William R. Kenan Jr. Distinguished Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He is a former recipient of the Kingsley Tufts Award and the Los Angeles Book Prize, was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, and is a fellow in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
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  • excerpts

    Gas Station Restroom

    The present tense

    is the body’s past tense

    here; hence

    the ghost sludge of hands

    on the now gray strip

    of towel hanging limp

    from the jammed dispenser;

    hence the mirror

    squinting through grime

    at grime, and the worn—

    to-a-sliver of soiled soap

    on the soiled sink.

    The streaked bowl,

    the sticky toilet seat, air

    claustral with stink—

    all residues and traces

    of the ancestral

    spirit of body free

    of spirit—hence,

    behind the station,

    at the back end of the store,

    hidden away

    and dimly lit

    this cramped and

    solitary carnival


    becoming Saul

    becoming scents


    and animal; hence,

    over the insides

    of the lockless stall

    the cave-like

    scribblings and glyphs

    declaring unto all

    who come to it

    in time: “heaven

    is here at hand

    and dark, and hell

    is odorless; hell

    is bright and clean.”

    Car Dealership at 3 A.M.

    Over the lot a sodium aura

    within which

    above the new cars sprays

    of denser many-colored brightnesses

    are rising and falling in a time lapse

    of a luminous and ghostly

    garden forever flourishing

    up out of its own decay.

    The cars, meanwhile, modest as angels

    or like angelic

    hoplites, are arrayed

    in rows, obedient to orders

    they bear no trace of,

    their bodies taintless, at attention,

    serving the sheen they bear,

    the glittering they are,

    the sourceless dazzle

    that the showcase window

    that the showroom floor

    weeps for

    when it isn’t there—

    like patent leather, even the black wheels shine.

    Here is the intense

    amnesia of the just now

    at last no longer longing

    in a flowering of lights

    beyond which

    one by one, haphazardly

    the dented, the rusted through,

    metallic Eves and Adams

    hurry past, as if ashamed,

    their dull beams averted,

    low in the historical dark they disappear into.


    The one cashier is dozing—

    head nodding, slack mouth open,

    above the cover girl spread out before her on the counter

    smiling up

    with indiscriminate forgiveness

    and compassion for everyone

    who isn’t her.

    Only the edge

    is visible of the tightly spooled

    white miles

    of what is soon

    to be the torn-off-

    inch-by-inch receipts,

    and the beam of green light in the black glass

    of the self-scanner

    drifts free in the space that is the sum

    of the cost of all the items that tonight

    won’t cross its path.

    Registers of feeling too precise

    too intricate to feel

    except in the disintegrating

    traces of a dream—

    panopticon of cameras

    cutting in timed procession

    from aisle to aisle

    to aisle on the overhead screens

    above the carts asleep inside each other—

    above the darkened

    service desk, the pharmacy, the nursery,

    so everywhere inside the store

    is everywhere at once

    no matter where—

    eternal reruns

    of stray wisps of steam

    that rise

    from the brightly frozen,

    of the canned goods and foodstuffs

    stacked in columns onto columns

    under columns pushed together

    into walls of shelves

    of aisles all celestially effacing

    any trace

    of bodies that have picked

    packed unpacked and placed

    them just so

    so as to draw bodies to the

    pyramid of plums,

    the ziggurats

    of apples and peaches and

    in the bins the nearly infinite

    gradations and degrees of greens

    misted and sparkling.

    A paradise of absence,

    the dreamed-of freed

    from the dreamer, bodiless

    quenchings and consummations

    that tomorrow will draw the dreamer

    the way it draws the night tonight

    to press the giant black moth

    of itself against the windows

    of fluorescent blazing.

    Park Bench

    Behind the bench the drive,

    before the bench the river.

    Behind the bench, white lights

    approaching east and west

    become red lights

    receding west and east

    while before the bench,

    there are paved and unpaved

    pathways and a grassy field,

    the boathouse, and the playground, and the gardens

    of a park named for a man whom

    no one now remembers

    except in the forgetting that occurs

    whenever the park’s name is said.

    Left of the bench there is a bridge

    that spans the river

    and beyond the bridge around a bend

    floodlights from the giant dry goods

    that replaced the bowling alley

    that replaced the slaughterhouse

    are dumping fire all night long

    into the river; but here

    where the bench is,

    the river is black, the river

    is lava long past its cooling,

    black as night

    with only a few lights

    from the upper story of the trapezoidal

    five-star hotel across the water

    glittering on the water

    like tiny crystals in a black geode.

    Haunt of courtship,

    haunt of illicit tryst; of laughter

    or muffled scream, what

    even now years later

    may be guttering elsewhere on the neural

    fringes of a dream, all this

    the bench is empty of,

    between the mineral river that it faces

    and the lights behind it speeding white

    to red to white to red to white.


Available Resources

Related Categories

  • Format: eBook

  • ISBN-13/EAN: 9780547607832

  • ISBN-10: 0547607830

  • Pages: 80

  • Price: $9.99

  • Publication Date: 01/31/2012

  • Carton Quantity: 1

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