“Talk to Myra you talk to the wall,”
Mama announced when I lived
so long in my head. Behind
my lids was where I fit.
O world, be small enough to hold me,
slow enough to let me swallow.
Maybe I belonged back inside her. Or
beneath the spine of a book. Maybe
among tall buildings to incubate
between their legs. The warm kitchen
was never for me though I wanted
to shine. Passion I called
the pressure wrestling underneath.
Yesterday, in an audience listening to
my first book of poems,
a full professor asked me: “Longing,
how is it different from wonder?”
Astonished, jack-lit as a robber
caught with the goods, I felt my eyes
struggle to withdraw—and then
in longing you close your eyes,
but in wonder you open them.
When those words went
ZINGing through the lovely room,
you bet your sweet ass they opened.
-Myra Shapiro, published in The Best American Poetry 1999 © 1999 Simon & Schuster. Fair use intended.