Massachusetts Psalm

Rob Shapiro

     Here we find nature to be the circumstance
     which dwarfs every other circumstance,
     and judges like a god all men that come to her.
            —Ralph Waldo Emerson

I’ve hunted your angels, tracked them
            back through thunderhead and snow,

winter’s gold, the too-bright mornings
            of spring. Let me hear their silvered wings

break across your mirrored body;
            let me find them

sailing through your crystal eye.
            Filled with this solemn light, I am

your rimmed floor and glass-top lake—
            your coyotes and dark aqueducts.

Praise the blue hours you send down,
            heavy with moonlight and rain.

Praise whatever you cast me from
            goldenrod and feather, sour river water

your fingers, how they shaped me
            into a son you could not keep.

Behind my eyelids, your hills.
            Beyond your cobblestones and synagogues,

your mayflowers blooming, a mercy.
             Your city busses and brawls, Boston,

harbor-hushed, trying to let us sleep.
             Praise what I keep from childhood

taste blood, smell of ironhow the wind
            wades through your low, gray skies

like grief: each gust rushing the tops of trees
            as clouds roll off the bay like a fleet.

Praise morning plows, the spray of salt,
            the accent I lost years ago.

When I am old, my friends will die inside of you.
            When I am old, I will draw myself back.

You lie behind me, yet you follow me still.
             You cradle the coast, you end in the field.


Rob Shapiro received an MFA from the University of Virginia where he was awarded the Academy of American Poets Prize. His poetry has recently appeared in AGNI, The Southern Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Ecotone, and Prairie Schooner, where his work received the Edward Stanley Award. He lives in New York City.