What’s the difference between running in place
or in circles? You still get there at the same time.
Too late, out of breath, empty-handed. I call out
the names of the dead. Awake, asleep, mid-air.
Moving my lips with or without my voice, waving
my hands to no avail. This is the age of responsibility.
Every breath an accusation, a finger stabbing the air.
Whispers, murmurs of education and prevention.
Advice given from behind a hand. Ask yourself
what you would do, what distance you would travel
to save a friend, a family member, a stranger. No
length too great, no act too ordinary. I pinch myself
awake from the same drowning dream. Starless, airless,
endless. Water black as rock, warm as a motor. Swimming
is out of the question, arms heavy as corpses. The drowned
float past, under the surface. Bottleless messages to
the living on the shore. Give rage a face, a mouth twisted
into goodbye. Two moist eyes that see everything,
unblinking. A nose for trouble and ears to listen for
the sound of nurses shuffling silently on schedule to
monitor a fever, a pulse, to preserve and protect what is left.
Gregg Shapiro is the author of Lincoln Avenue (Squares and Rebels Press, 2014), GREGG SHAPIRO: 77 (Souvenir Spoon Press, 2012), Protection (Gival Press, 2008) and the forthcoming short story collection, How to Whistle (Lethe Press, 2016). An entertainment journalist whose interviews and reviews run in a variety of regional LGBT and mainstream publications and websites, Gregg lives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida with his husband Rick Karlin and their dog k.d.
This poem appeared in the anthology Among The Leaves: Queer Male Poets on the Midwestern Experience (Squares & Rebels, 2012), edited by Raymond Luczak.