Thirty-Seventh Year

At the start of this narrative, I will pretend
Not to be alive, not to be

Speaking to you from the living earth.
To help you. I will pretend

The circumstances of our being
Here, together, are casual—

And not incidental
Of this awkward dilemma: How to co-exist

When you would like me dead.
For simplicity. For lack of threat.

In this narrative I will look
At you from a distance, as into the future,

No more real than I am,
Sitting here in my off-white body which I can feel

But is somehow less important, less
Urgent than the problem it poses. 

Sometimes, when I write this kind of narrative,
My mind flees and all I see above is text

At once strange, because I don’t know
How to hold it, and familiar, because I wrote it—

Send out the memo, I’m nearly done here.
How much more of this life to live? 30 years, if I’m lucky,

I bet. If my life ends, will my brothers’ finally begin?
Who made my mother? Who killed my father who lives?


From Trace Evidence: Poems (Tin House, 2023) by Charif Shanahan. Copyright © 2023 by Charif Shanahan. Used with the permission of the publisher.