ANDREW SHIELDS


Andrew's latest publications are two translations from the German:
Tousled Beauty by Dieter M. Graf (Green Integer), and A Farewell to
Everything
by Ilma Rakusa (Shearsman, co-translated with Andrew
Winnard). His translations are also featured in Joachim Sartorius,
Ice Memory (Carcanet), which came out in March.






Edward Dickinson's Will

Being of sound mind and body,
he put aside his pen and paper
every time he sat down to write,
then turned to consider the window.
There were no cracks in the old glass;
the paint had only begun to peel.
Whatever the season, the ink
dried in the bottle as he waited
for his hands to pick up the pen,
but his eyes would not turn away
from the scene outside the page.
The garden began to darken;
his face grew clearer in the glass
until he turned his back on himself
and, being of sound mind and body,
put the cork back on the bottle
and put aside his pen and paper.






Nuthatch

The paper's in the tree whose trunk is split,
the one the nuthatch will be climbing down.
The words I was afraid to write on it
will tell you where to go. Be there at dawn.

You'll find the matches by another tree.
Burn the paper. If the smoke drifts west,
you've arrived. Sit down and wait for me.
I'll come from the east when the new moon sets.

But if the smoke drifts elsewhere, or the paper
doesn't burn, then I have gone my way
already. I'll have left you bread and water.
Eat. Drink. Do not sit down. Do not wait.

I won't return. I will not bid you read
the scars the nuthatch pecked into the bark,
revealing where I went to disappear
in the language of the meadowlark.






The Seven-Year-Old Atheist

The universe gives me the creeps.
- Willem de Kooning

The seven-year-old atheist knew the sky
of California, in winter even bluer
than in summer. He knew that cats could die,
like grass beneath a stone, and children, too.

With his every breath, the universe
expanded, made him smaller. So he willed
himself to grow, energetically cursed -
"God damn it to hell!" - his puny build.

Neither curse nor prayer could change the speed
of light or turn his energy to mass.
He did not breathe in vain. He did not need
mysterious ways. He lay down on the grass

and dreamed he was a stone that someone kicked.
He would have been surprised at his own trick,
if he had disappeared. Instead, he flew
across the lawn, then landed, woke, and grew.






Stand Clear Of The Closing Doors

The train hums in to Mannheim where we change
for Kassel, all our stuff's still strewn about,
Andrea picks up Miles and a backpack,
my arms encircle papers, toys, and snacks,
we're on the platform, we just made it out,

I have to go back in for one more thing,
I grab it, but someone's standing in the aisle,
the button's just a second from my finger,
the door is slipping shut, I force it, fly,

and wake to write these lines to keep the dream
from recurring, to close the door on it.



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