Charif Shanahan

I met Charif several years ago at the memorial for Linda Gregg–he had been one of her students. I’m so happy to have seen his poems popping up in magazines lately.  I love especially the way this poem leads up to its terrific last stanza. His new collection, Trace Evidence, just came out from Tin House books.

On Exiting Universitätsspital Zürich, New Year’s Eve, 2015

The open air had the predictable sparkle
After two months not only indoors
But flat on my back, waiting, mostly,
For the neck they kept cutting open to heal

So that when they wheeled me out through double
Doors and the tram passed across my field
Of view and the scattered strangers flecked
The white blur my eyes made

Like floaters after a long sleep, I felt,
Sudden in my plexus, the exact angle of loss
I had lived with when I lived here
As though it had waited for me to return so as

To enter me again, as though I had not
Lived four years without it, elsewhere, where
They say life is, regardless of where you are,
So that as the bells of the Fraumünster rang

From inside the steeples, the tail
Of the lake stretching out of view between
The hills on either side, I became,
As an actor becomes, animated, populated by

Someone else’s feelings, someone else’s spirit—
And now, a few years later still, I know
To ask if this complex of feeling, deep-frozen,
Waiting for me, was my actual life—

Not a portion of the life, not
A possible life, but my tangled and patient
Actual implausible resilient fucked-up life?

Charif Shanahan