Image by Hollis Duncan

Poetry Three Poems

Natalie Shapero

Play In

Often I have been told I should be in movies,
not because I am glamorous or anything like that, but because
my expressions are at times borderline
imperceptible; seeing me from a regular distance, people can’t tell
how I feel. So really what they’re recommending
is enlargement, the ability to be transmitted to others by close-up.
Isn’t there a way to get this accomplished
without becoming an actor? Can’t someone wait
until right when the light’s good, then hold above me
a magnifying glass, like a cruel child intent on burning a bug?
My hangup with movies is the messaging

that comes with being filmed out of sequence. It makes actors
confused — they start thinking that in life
they can go ahead and die and then just be fine the next day.
Also sometimes you only get a slice
of the script if you’re assigned to lesser part; you can be in the thing
and not even know what the plot is. Well, I get enough
of that in my own life already. Sometimes I’m sore
from living embargoed, nobody telling me how I play in, but I know
I should just be thankful for the paycheck. i’m lucky, I say,
regular-sized and largely unreadable, to be here at all.

In Something

Acting does have its pull. Who doesn’t want to be
in something? i paint very large pictures….

to paint a small picture is to place yourself
outside your experience, to look upon an experience
as a stereopticon view with a reducing glass.
however you paint the larger pictures,
you are in in
(Rothko).

I’ve wanted to be in something. I’ve been terrified
of the converse. To anyone who would listen, I’ve recited
the sequence of conditions that gave rise to the SoHo Loft:
the industries’ exit, the artists squatting
in the hollowed-out factories, how the sheer size
of the spaces allowed for the production of larger and larger works.
How this shifted the vogue —

salon-style decor giving way to the one-picture wall,
the collectors clamoring not only for paintings of increasing
dimension, but also for the loft layouts that were ideal
for their display. The buildings acquired and sold,
the artists priced out. A cautionary tale about painting
oneself right out of one’s own life.

Rothko told the story of summer at home
with the windows pushed up, overhearing one passerby
to another i wonder who lives in this house
with all the rothkos?

Wrong Line

So badly I’ve wanted to be in something and now it turns out
I am. What I’m in is the wrong line, the absolute wrong line
of work. Should’ve been an actor! Though I know what people
are thinking: if acting appeals as route to rejecting
oneself and becoming instead someone else,
and if I’m unequipped,
as I’ve been in these times, to recognize just
who I am, isn’t there a real risk I’ll inadvertently step into someone
I do not realize is me? No further questions. So far as I’ve seen,

the main task of acting is, out of desperation, professing expertise
in whatever is required of the role: of course
i speak flemish. of course i can pole vault.
of course i can hit a high g.
of course i’m a painter
, and the next
thing I know, they’re plunking me down in front of an easel, watching
in exasperation as I blend carmine and crimson
not on the palette, but straight on my upturned arm, requiring
hospitalization for turpentine poisoning. When the doctor accuses me
of trying to die, I explain it was just for a role. of course
i can skeet shoot. of course i can
hang glide. of course i can live through the year.

Natalie Shapero's new book is Popular Longing.

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