The Wanderer

Kate Schapira's Epistles to a Sickened World

Updated May 08, 2016 5:46pm PDT
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These poems by Kate Schapira are anxious, immediate letters to an earth in crisis. 

Each poem begins with the same conceit: Two climatologists, multiple scenarios, very stark. But over a succession of days and letters, none of those scenarios are explained. They hang there, looming with sinister possibility over the lines that follow. This hesitance to go into the scenarios isn't the kind of diversion an acquaintance seeks when speaking with a sick friend, but an acknowledgement that there's something fuller just beyond the implied sense of doom. 

The Wanderer posts new poetry every Sunday. Submissions are free, and publication is paid. Send 5-10 poems to the editor at wandererpoems@gmail.com.  >


DEAR LETTER DEAR WORLD, by Kate Schapira  

  11/13

                                                                Stayed
with 2 climatologists and they walked me through
multiple scenarios. All very stark. I won't
describe for you. I'd never heard the word "dispositif"
before, world, put into letterforms by one of
your people. It seems helpful up to a point.
I ground the coffee thinking, "I contemplate my
death. I contemplate the death of everything.
I contemplate change. I contemplate change in
everything. I accept my death," and so on
until the coffee was all ground down. The heat
is on this morning but it didn't freeze last
night: some of the hostas are still vertical.
If I transcribed none of the things that wait
for me to transcribe them, that would probably
be fine. If I sat down and waited for death
that might be fine too but that's the future for
you, world of things in boring time;
how stupid the feeling that time is running
out to keep you the same, and yet I don't feel
guilty about not wanting to manage the night.


  11/14

                                                                Stayed
with 2 climatologists and they walked me through
multiple scenarios. All very stark. I won't
describe for you. Instead I'll tell you names
of people who came here last night because that's
what you say you like: Cybele, Ian, Christiane, Olivia,
Cathy, Andrew and Jacob. We ate pumpkin pie made
by me and drank cider in front of a fire. We had
a great time. We bragged our way into the next life.
List after list itches at my fingertips like phantom
limbs, ghost ledgers for the first days
of being dead, a rim of snow like grime,
weather eye opening like a fissure.
You live here with us all the time.
You are the shape of the air in our house.
You don't need me to explain yourself to you,
bitter, fragrant, leaking a little sewer gas on
your way home, who could blame you. I don't
feel guilty about not wanting to manage the night.


  11/16

                                                                Stayed
with 2 climatologists and they walked me through
multiple scenarios. All very stark. I won't
describe for you. Wail out the wall that renews
itself and woe betide the turnless tide following.
The yellow eye altering. There's trackless
less and less in this full moon yarrowhead,
this half moon knife, this apple. Try to think
like a stump, like a runt, like a calf.
Try to wean where once you just sucked.
Try to give where you once just backed
onto property, fenced more than graced or
disgruntled, hunter more than hunted,
failed moon seedhead. Yellow loaded eye.
When you come to the door, world, you'll be,
the house will fill to bursting of people
it can't purge and chambers of seeds it can't
rupture, and what will you do, and what
will they do, and what will the door do? I don't
feel guilty about not wanting to manage the night.


  11/17

                                                                Stayed
with 2 climatologists and they walked me through
multiple scenarios. All very stark. I won't
describe for you. Dear letter: I'm writing you to you
in a well-lit room roaring quietly with ventilation
and clicking with traffic. The waves that reared
you up are frozen silent. My hand itches itself
incrementally toward tiny scratching motions:
this blond veneer in plastic I can't name, peel
back and show us how weak you are, how loose,
how cracked. Bodies with hands on them fold
into shapes they don't know are shapes because
they're the same. That's what change could do.
It could say, this is something, something
else. We will be ridden by objective fear stabbing
up through the very parts of us. Near relations
nearer than these even, known to us as people
we lost, I won't, don't make me: I don't feel guilty
about not wanting to manage the night.


  11/18

                                                                Stayed
with 2 climatologists and they walked me through
multiple scenarios. All very stark. I won't
describe for you because whatever I do I
institute deletions. I lean on institutions. Live
by seepage. Hanging frozen with the knowledge
of thaw the trees' and bushes' bones tell them
nothing they can understand. Can we take over,
can we explain it to them, saying, listen,
we passed you some bad information in every
cell and every call and every sorry. Heavy
feelings of operation come down the arms and into
hands like runoff, like cohesion, neither
grimly nor brightly but with letdown.
I smell mall perfume--runoff--at my wrist
and write: I don't feel guilty about not wanting
to manage the night.


  11/20

                                                                Stayed
with 2 climatologists and they walked me through
multiple scenarios. All very stark. I won't
describe for you. Dear letter at variance with all
that forgets, if I were to fashion you
from iron I'd need skills I don't have now,
and tools, and fuel.
All who are puny let them come and work.
All who are wading hip-deep let them with
no sign of weeding out. Why bother to
go to the future if there's no room for
the weak there, the soft yes, the vacillation?
Were you wishful of finding out? And did
you burn your fingers on hot iron that
looked cool? The price of learning is like other
things about to rise. The site of learning is
about to change. I don't have much to tell you
in this, letter, but I have that. I may be worthless
but I make a mean world in my first
horseshoe shape, though not on my first try.
I don't feel guilty about not wanting
to manage the forge. To forge the night.


  11/23

                                                                Stayed
with 2 climatologists and they walked me through
multiple scenarios. All very stark. I won't
describe for you. I'll move the margin back
till you're standing very close to me,
the edge of you, the hollow human
of shapely atomic space, a
voice stepping in to soften, putting a cold toe
out over me. Can you feel that? That's
your circulation trying to cut its losses
as it approaches me, if you're that much of
a fool. I take it back. That isn't science,
unlike you, world. You're all science, all
nouns and relationship words I sit and recite
because I have no discipline, no stamina,
no staying power. No power to stay you.
No power to stay. I don't feel guilty about
not wanting to manage the night.



Wanderer

illustration by Kiva Bay

The Wanderer is a poetry series edited by Colette Arrand and published by Harlot Media. New poems are published every Sunday, and publication is paid. If you're interested in submitting poetry or pitching a book review, send an e-mail with 5-10 poems or your pitch to wandererpoems@gmail.com. Submissions are open to all, though ###em/em###'s mission at this time is to center work from poets operating outside a cis male framework. 

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Kate Schapira's fifth book, Handbook for Hands that Alter As We Hold Them Out, just came out with Horse Less Press, and her 11th chapbook appeared with Projective Industries last summer. She co-runs the Publicly Complex Reading Series, teaches writing in a few capacities, and sometimes offers Climate Anxiety Counseling.