12 Floors Above the Earth – a review of Poems by Myra Shapiro


So this book has a bit of a story in itself for myself as the personal reviewer. After waking up and drinking copious amounts of fermented spirits I realized that the snow was not going to stop falling over the Charles river, no cabs to be had, so I set out into the 12 inches of pristine white in Cambridge and trudged onward and over bridge into Boston to see the Poets House table. Myra is on the board of directors for the Poets house and was welcoming when finally I left a pile of the precipitate all over the AWP convention floor. She quickly traded books with me, and then in opening my backpack, I realized that the zipper was stuck. She used her experience but alas it went to that ol gruff of a fiddler that took a pair of broken scissors to pry at the lock. I suddenly plunged my steel into finger and promptly bled all over the Poet’s House Desk. This is a bit what this book is like.



Myra would have been quite the dame in the day, and hey, theres still tomorrow

Kosher Home

He didn’t have to ask. It felt exotic.
I was a wife with books
for how to cook and how to
organize a closet. Keeping kosher
was the embellishment,  the trope,
the heightened form I set
to make of ordinary life
a drama. For him it was just
ordinary life, the ease of his God
bless you.
It didn’t do, and

leaving the butcher one day,
I refused to continue.

I however did not, and hopefully endeared myself to that humble little poet’s house with the eventual declaration that the zipper had been defeated. I saw a bit of sparkle in her eye, and I long for that sort of woman’s lust/approval, it seethes out of some of these poems.

The Late Lover

Sometimes when I think of someone coming to thrill me
late in life,
to touch in me what hasn’t been touched in ages, or ever, I
hear my mother
confiding in me after my father died: these are the happiest days
of my life–
if this is all, I’m happy–
dressing up for dinner with the deli man,

night coming on–
you know the feeling: the evening ahead of you and you’re choosing
necklace & earrings–
the best months of my life! And she swore she’d never again marry.

The widower wanted a wife and found one. By year’s end I doctored
a dying woman
in a turquoise gown, watched grey hair sprout from the senorita black.
Over and over
I thought how she’d hexed herself by telling me she couldn’t ask for
more, and now
I scare myself by knowing how I save the best for last–the juicy
bit of marrow
from the shank of lamb that goes, while I’m making conversation,
into the hands
of the waiter whisking my plate from the table … leaving me

dessert. Beyond father and mother, beyond entrees to you
Mr. Berry Man
with a pocket of bones for the last course, roll ’em,
feed the chickens,
humor me, tell me you want me bad, bad enough to do
an old woman’s
dirty work. Shine so bright there is no dirty work,
only glamory tricks,
magic–you know the kind–the disappearing act you do
with boxes, slick
knives and sweet-sass to outfox me, to keep me coming back
for more.

Myra has a lot to do in 79 pages, and she accomplishes alot of what she searches for, rehashing the past, going over the wrongs and right with a nitpicking story comb, however, lets get back to the sex

The New Lover

The night
before my sister-in-law died,
from months of illness, she begged
her husband
to make love to her. She who was
to merge with trees
needed to press up against one.

After forty years
my husband has no tree for me, but
he has mottled flesh
which could be earth. With brandy
in two snifters,
torch songs telling our bodies remember,
we bare ourselves
to the velvet sofa better then the bed

we hunker in,
seldom to touch, and we begin to
stroke, our bodies
dulled for anything but winter. Tonight
it thrills me
with its absolute clarity: we
will come to
ask nothing of each other
and that nothing
keeps us standing eye to eye,
turning into sister-brother,
the taboo of them.
Cross that line to cross another.

I’m beginning to play footsy
with the ground,
thinking of its weight on me.

This man will always enjoy a woman of fancy with her footsy. This is an Antrim House book, and I don’t know if maybe I got a bad copy but there are several pages that did not print out well, there are smudges on the words, like it had not imprinted itself hard enough to the paper. This may like I said just be my copy, however the systematic nature of this, and I do not think it intentional adds a bit of character if anything else, however I would care to guess someone should wipe the ol’ ink blades clean the next time it puts out a book of this nature!

Trees, Water, My Two-Piece Bathing
Suit, His Bedroom Eyes

And then he shamed me: God
bless you,
he wrote,

wishing my parents a bromide
for their hospitality, not knowing
our family saw God as a drug lord
for pogroms, ghettos, crusades,

and, in this new world,
Sunset Circle, Dalton, Georgia,
no admission to the pool
where school friends swam
in summer,
summers I’d escape
to New York City, to Mama’s family
holding me in a tight/right world
he was the first to unsettle:
a Rabbi’s son
a stranger who would become my husband
inviting god into our good house,

an embarrassment, a danger,
so why did I follow, why did I go?

There is a lot to this collection, lets keep this review tidy and end it with a Gold Star!

Gold Star Girl

My job is to live. Like Isaac
named for laughter.
Not Job’s job, up to his ears
in death.  Tragedy

my mother knew when she lost
her first child; then I knew
she would die if I did–
so I didn’t. My job is to live.

This year I’m seventy-five.  Good job,
Mama’d say is she were here.
I hear it anyway. And soon
I will have to let he down.

Well, I must face it. Without
the comedy of an afterlife
there’s only dying. How do I
find the mettle to give myself

to the violation? Run wild? Bear left?
You see what I’m up against.

unlikelyblondjesus copy


One thought on “12 Floors Above the Earth – a review of Poems by Myra Shapiro

  1. Pingback: 12 Floors Above the Earth – a review of Poems by Myra Shapiro | turthordie

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