Rock Pool

By Alan R. Shapiro b. 1952

Water roared everywhere around us, yet from the bank   
all we could see of it were quick spumes and flashes   
here and there, in among the boulders. Cautiously,   
as if they might awaken, we clambered over   
the gigantic slabs and humps, the sun-baked ovals   
lumpy as hammered clay, and saw downstream below us   
only the vague shapes of others, almost billowy,   
like magnified amoebas, stretching away to even   
vaguer ones beyond them, turning the narrow   
streambed through the valley to a lunar seam.


Easing ourselves down over the massive sides
(we were hot and tired, eager for the pools below)   
we could make out older water in the rough grain,   
undulating and immobile currents, band swirled on band,   
mica-speckled, cloudy, each seeming to move off,   
as it faded, through the stone—each one a glacial rune,   
each boulder an innumerable pebble in the ice sheet’s
tidal suck and drag: two hundred thousand years,   
two billion, five, the molten core, spoor   
of gasses in the vast night, at our fingertips.


Then the pool: your clothes shed, with one hand braced   
against the rock ledge you had slipped into the hip-high   
rushing water, and were wading out, bent over, reaching   
like the blind before you for the slippery boulder
you slid across, pushing against the white weight
of the pouring mist, your skin goose-fleshed, speckled   
bright as mica, and then, part mist yourself,
you turned back, smiling, calling though I couldn’t   
hear you, calling and waving for me to climb down   
to where you were, to join you there. And so I did.

Alan Shapiro, “Rock Pool” from Covenant (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1991).. Copyright © 1991 by Alan Shapiro. Reprinted with the permission of the author.

Source: Covenant (The University of Chicago Press, 1991)

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Poet Alan R. Shapiro b. 1952

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

Subjects Nature

 Alan R. Shapiro


Born in Boston, Massachusetts, Alan Shapiro was educated at Brandeis University. As the author of numerous collections of poetry, Shapiro has explored family, loss, domesticity, and the daily aspects of people’s lives in free verse and traditional poetic forms. He has published over ten books of poetry, most recently Reel to Reel (2014), a finalist for the Pulizer Prize; Night of the Republic (2012), a finalist for the National . . .

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POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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