"In the Hopeful Future," "Keats Isn't the Problem," and "Bowie Second Line"

In the Hopeful Future

—for Vincent Cellucci


when I picture you at a party
you are arriving

scraping a foot on the front step
you kick caked mud
from the toe of your retro Jordan’s
on the welcome mat
whisper the word Jump
under your breath

domesticated as the dozen carnations
you carry where you used to carry 
a dozen dead elephants
inside a dozen dead snakes

you pat your pockets
as if you never left home
feel for your phone and keys
your fire hydrant heart
the memory of your younger face
reflected in a red motorcycle
passing you by

what a pouring down outside
memory puddles behind you
what the hammer and hot blade of it
the chain and anvil of it
the devil and lesser devil of it

somehow you ended up on this porch
you say to yourself
the way a river remembers
the only path is to the sea it ends in
then ring the doorbell

I can’t remember half
of anything
I can remember


Keats Isn’t the Problem

             is not the t-shirt shot

from the cannon

but I wanted to say— Thanks,

Custom Ink!

and have it on Brett’s doorstep
before Brett
could canonize

          the masses meaningful

without them knowing
ever happened

I’m feeling the right costume
cape and smile

could really move
the books

                          off the shelf

but then again
the TV poet on Transparent

just said lostness

and everyone


maybe my gifts are best given
                     in another world

              where we ain’t afraid

                          of no ghosts

where Brett tells a moving story

             the one we’ve all heard   
                the one we’ve all told

the one with the books and not
all of them can go
the one when the move

                           from uptown
to tracks

really gets clackin

the one when every time Brett
to Kamenetz

            Keats isn’t the problem

something meaningful happens


Bowie Second Line

hard to say if we both believed
Bowie died for our sins

when the woman
who had been heavy-breathing   
her wild mom-breath

into the kitchen cabinets
all morning

came into the living room
wearing her best Bowie dress 
to find me uncertain

if a couch is a sleeping baby
or a sleeping baby a couch

either way it seemed
reason enough to call for a sitter
either way something dead

inside us was squirming
in its heavy sleep

either way the New Orleans sky
hung above
the crowd in the Quarter

like a sheet slowly falling
over a sleeping baby  


These selections are from Meaningful Poems, a forthcoming collaboration with Brett Evans.



Christopher Shipman

Christopher Shipman (he/him) lives on Eno, Sappony, & Shakori land in Greensboro, North Carolina, where he teaches literature and creative writing at New Garden Friends School & plays drums in The Goodbye Horses. Recent work appears or is forthcoming in Denver Quarterly, Iron Horse Literary Review, Fence, Pedestal, Poetry Magazine, Rattle (online), & elsewhere. His experimental play Metaphysique D’ Ephemera has been staged at four universities. Getting Away with Everything (Unlikely Books, 2021), in collaboration with Vincent Cellucci, is his most recent collection. More at www.cshipmanwriting.com.


Edited for Unlikely by Jonathan Penton, Editor-in-Chief
Last revised on Tuesday, July 19, 2016 - 23:58