I want a door opening in me that I can enter

In the spirit of celebrating tenderness, here is the last poem from Jason Shinder’s (1955-2008) Stupid Hope, which was assembled and published after he died from leukemia and lymphoma. I loved this raw collection when I first encountered it years ago and am grateful it recently found its way back to my bedside.

28lives-500

“Untitled”

If there is no cure, I still want to correct a few things

and think mostly of people, and have them all alive.
I want a door opening in me that I can enter

and feel the clarity of evening and the stars beginning.

One after another, I want my mistakes returning
and to approach them on a beach like a man

for whom there is no division between one way or another.

My most faithful body, you are not in the best of shape,
far from the glitter of the river in which you once swam.

But I want good tears when I stand on the street

and, from the sky, drifts down the finest mist on my face.
Not everything is given and it should not permit sadness.

Let me
Let me keep on describing things to be sure they happened.

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Your hand has found mine.


“Especially in the Late Afternoon”
     by Jason Shinder (1955- )

The warm air makes us
    different
        from the way

we are.
    We go deep
        in the long grasses and ferns

at the edge
    of an open field.
        Is it knowing

what to do
    with the long-stemmed lilac
        that counts?

It’s dark.
    Or it will be.
        Some trees perfectly still,

which only this morning
    thrashed about
        in a storm.

Your hand
    has found mine.
        Have we ever arrived

in the arms of someone
    who wasn’t lost
         from the start?

-from Among Women

And I didn’t turn my gaze downward.

from Stupid Hope by Jason Shinder (1955-2008).

The Change

Your unmistakable breasts, plain, finely wrinkled, strained

but not crushed. You were no longer embarrassed to be naked
each time you undressed. And I didn’t turn my gaze downward.

All your beautifulness, despite the loose skin hanging inches
from your bones. And the unshaven legs.

You weren’t thinking you could rest against me either, even

when you tried. Thank you, mother. You let me see you unprotected,
full of doubt, miserable. So I could know you were still alive,

so I could know what loving someone looked like.