Thirty-Third Year

Charif Shanahan

You can see already how this will work out for you.
You will dither into and out of your days.
You will find the conditions with which to talk a good game
Oh, that California sun, the air is just cleaner out here—
As the vines grow tighter around the house—this time,
A borrowed one, shared with twenty-­two white eccentrics,
Three of whom are the children you used to say
You wanted, but no longer see
As viable. Who gets to live the life
They think they want? So few of us
Curate with energy… You’ll come to an end
Which will feel final but naturally also be
A beginning, and you can see how that phase will work out for you, too.
It’s all a single thread, after all, a single braid,
Only looking closely do you see the frays, do the vines
Grow tighter. You’ll seek help from two women
Dedicated to helping others and they will be unable
To help you, despite your organizing your life around their help.
That’s the way it is, you know: you look to the left and to your right
A golden ticket falls from the sky; you write a book of poems
And your hero, at your book party, tosses her hand through the air
To tell her friend who’s just asked who you are that you are nobody.

Cover image: "Leaning" by Mónica Leitão Mota / Adapted version licensed via Creative Commons.

Charif Shanahan is the author of Into Each Room We Enter Without Knowing, recipient of the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry First Book Award. He teaches poetry in the undergraduate and Litowitz MFA+MA programs at Northwestern University.
Originally published:
May 19, 2021


Louise Glück’s Late Style

The fabular turn in the poet’s last three books
Teju Cole

The Critic as Friend

The challenge of reading generously
Merve Emre

Rachel Cusk

The novelist on the “feminine non-state of non-being”
Merve Emre

You Might Also Like


New perspectives, enduring writing. Join a conversation 200 years in the making. Subscribe to our print journal and receive four beautiful issues per year.