Three Poems by Daniel M. Shapiro

by: Daniel M. Shapiro ((Header art is by the incredibly talented fine art photographer, Ori Gersht.))

Like the pop songs they take their titles from, Daniel Shapiro’s poems remind us to take seriously the fact that “music is all the water we need” as everyday moments reverberate into memory, and then into dream.


The Motion of a Thousand Dreams ((Title is a lyric from “Doctor! Doctor!” by Thompson Twins (#3 on UK Singles Chart, 1984).))

Falsetto harmonies fill the prison, the planetarium where the moon is always out. The one woman worries about dementia, says the doctors will give it to you to make their money. She can still find the right notes on tympani, marimbas. The keyboard player turns red from the steam, the steam they pump in to keep the band moving. How could anyone sleep at a time like this? When they’re not rehearsing for the next No. 1, they play cards with four decks, lead singer partnered with a mannequin. Everyone talks about health, about people they used to see, cousins who came over to talk about who got sick. If they talk about food, it’s what they can’t have anymore, what’s poison, what died in the extinct soil. The singer says dementia is always real but the drugs might not be. They begin to curl up, to lower their heads when the keyboard player leaps from his chair. The perfect 16-measure solo has made its way into his head, his shadow shouted from an artificial star.


Too Long on the Borderline ((Title is a lyric from “I Found Someone” (written by Michael Bolton and Mark Mangold; version recorded by Cher reached #10 on Billboard Hot 100, 1988).))

Once upon a time there was time. People would live each day in cliché, believing breaking up mattered, cheating mattered. He danced with you while he looked at her. You kicked him out, found another who looked just like him. You cried for hours while trying to get your hair to stay big. He groped and grinded her to make you jealous. You let your new him do the same. Of course you wound up back together to tell the story we couldn’t hear, we who were ducking under abandoned shelters, writhing in soot-covered beds, exorcising demons on walks through alleys. We wanted to care but had to save more than youth that wears out its welcome, as if your remake mattered more than the original.


And We Scream Like Alley Cats ((Title is a lyric from “Kiss the Dirt (Falling Down the Mountain)” by INXS (#15 on Australian ARIA Singles Chart, 1986).))

When the camera flies over, it will flag us under loss. We begin apart, soloists who seem to sing to keep our minds off dying in white sands. As the sky darkens, we move closer together without the need for microphones, amplifiers. Time, the only metronome that matters, moves at the same rate for all of us. Machines and their instructions flash by—headlights, road signs, engines. They’ve come to rescue us, to return us to what we’re expected to be. We ignore them, build a bonfire to light our fingerings, the beating of drums. By the time the hot sun has returned, we’re still playing, accompanied by the smoke of yesterday’s angels. This time, the camera rushes off to report us as outlaws or undead, as if such a distinction mattered. Music is all the water we need, the mountain in which to blend, from which to rise with shoulders high.


Daniel M. Shapiro is the author of How the Potato Chip Was Invented (sunnyoutside press, 2013), a collection of celebrity-centered poems. His recent work has appeared in Hermeneutic Chaos, Rogue Agent, Maudlin House, Unbroken, and elsewhere. He is a special education teacher who lives in Pittsburgh.



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