Charif Shanahan

January 21, 2014


          i.  New York

These days, my sympathy narrows:
in The Barracuda, I sip a dirty martini
my back against the bar:
                                     in the half-lit glitz
marionettes bloom from the ceiling, the walls:
                           stringless and slack
they fumble into one another
always about to fall—


          ii. Casablanca

My uncles find wives at the souk.
Kaoutar and Latifa were sisters,
now sisters-in-law: at home,
preparing couscous, they slip gin
into their buttermilk, their men
at the window calling down
to boys on bicycles.


          iii. Laramie, Wyoming







          iv. Florence

And are you here, too, dear Brunetto?
     If I had not in those days found you
among the other poets in the ghetto,
     would I now be here, passing through
this place, guided by the elder to the sky’s
     rapture? How could I, alone, issue
these words—this music in our sighs?
     Give me your book, your exiled hands.
I will hold them, as your unreadable eyes,
     and walk with reverence on burning sands.


          v. California

“This initiative measure is submitted to the people in accordance with the provisions of Article II, Section 8, of the [state] Constitution.
                This initiative measure expressly amends the [state] Constitution by adding a section thereto;”


          vi. Newark, NJ; Cypress, TX; Greensburg, IN; Tehachapi, CA

Facebook asks, What’s on your mind? : “Jumping off the gw bridge, sorry”
                                                                          No note.  (3x)


          vii. Zürich

As though, recklessly,
we burn the old parchments in unison, cleansing
the walls with their smoke—
as though our bodies themselves have magnetized—

like at night when I enter the room to join you in bed
and you, still asleep, reach out for me.

Charif Shanahan is a Cave Canem fellow, and studied poetry at Princeton University, Dartmouth College, and, most recently, New York University, where he earned his MFA and served as a Starlight Foundation Fellow. A recipient of a 2010 Academy of American Poets Prize and a semi-finalist for the 2013 “Discovery”/Boston Review Poetry Prize, his poems and translations have appeared or are forthcoming in The New Republic, Circumference, Explosion-Proof, and elsewhere. He works as Programs Director for the Poetry Society of America and as the poetry editor for Psychology Tomorrow Magazine.

What motivates him to create:
Consciousness in this world.