Sunday: New Guinea

By Karl Shapiro 1913–2000 Karl Shapiro
    The bugle sounds the measured call to prayers,
    The band starts bravely with a clarion hymn,
    From every side, singly, in groups, in pairs,
Each to his kind of service comes to worship Him.

    Our faces washed, our hearts in the right place,
    We kneel or stand or listen from our tents;
    Half-naked natives with their kind of grace
Move down the road with balanced staffs like mendicants.

    And over the hill the guns bang like a door
    And planes repeat their mission in the heights.
    The jungle outmaneuvers creeping war
And crawls within the circle of our sacred rites.

    I long for our disheveled Sundays home,
    Breakfast, the comics, news of latest crimes,
    Talk without reference, and palindromes,
Sleep and the Philharmonic and the ponderous Times.

    I long for lounging in the afternoons
    Of clean intelligent warmth, my brother’s mind,
    Books and thin plates and flowers and shining spoons,
And your love’s presence, snowy, beautiful, and kind.

Karl Shapiro, “Sunday: New Guinea” from Selected Poems (New York: Library of America, 2003). Copyright © 2003 by Estate of Karl Shapiro. Reprinted with the permission of Wieser & Elwell, Inc.

Source: Selected Poems (2003)

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Poet Karl Shapiro 1913–2000

Subjects War & Conflict, Home Life, Music, Love, Separation & Divorce, Religion, Living, Relationships, Arts & Sciences, Social Commentaries, Heartache & Loss, Realistic & Complicated

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 Karl  Shapiro


Karl Shapiro’s poetry received early recognition, winning a number of major poetry awards, including the Pulitzer Prize, during the 1940s. Strongly influenced by the traditionalist poetry of W. H. Auden, Shapiro’s early work is “striking for its concrete but detached insights,” Alfred Kazin wrote in Contemporaries. “It is witty and exact in the way it catches the poet’s subtle and guarded impressions, and it is a poetry full of . . .

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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