On Exiting Universitätsspital Zürich, New Year’s Eve, 2015
The open air had the predictable sparkleAfter two months not only indoorsBut flat on my back, waiting, mostly,For the neck they kept cutting open to healSo that when they wheeled me out through doubleDoors and the tram passed across my fieldOf view and the scattered strangers fleckedThe white blur my eyes madeLike floaters after a long sleep, I felt,Sudden in my plexus, the exact angle of lossI had lived with when I lived hereAs though it had waited for me to return so asTo enter me again, as though I had notLived four years without it, elsewhere, whereThey say life is, regardless of where you are,So that as the bells of the Fraumünster rangFrom inside the steeples, the tailOf the lake stretching out of view betweenThe hills on either side, I became,As an actor becomes, animated, populated bySomeone else’s feelings, someone else’s spirit—And now, a few years later still, I knowTo ask if this complex of feeling, deep-frozen,Waiting for me, was my actual life—Not a portion of the life, notA possible life, but my tangled and patientActual implausible resilient fucked-up life?
“On Exiting Universitätsspital Zürich, New Year’s Eve, 2015” from TRACE EVIDENCE: by Charif Shanahan.
Published by Tin House on March 21, 2023.
Copyright © 2023 by Charif Shanahan.
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission.
Charif Shanahan is the author of Trace Evidence: poems (Tin House, 2023), called “a truly magical achievement” by MacArthur Fellow Ocean Vuong, and Into Each Room We Enter without Knowing: poems (SIU Press, 2017), which was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Poetry and the Publishing Triangle’s Thom Gunn Award, and winner of the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry First Book Award. He is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship; the Wallace Stegner Fellowship at Stanford University; and a Fulbright Senior Scholar Grant to Morocco, among other awards and recognitions. He is an Assistant Professor of English and Creative Writing at Northwestern University, where he teaches poetry in the undergraduate and Litowitz MFA+MA graduate creative writing programs.
“A truly magical achievement.”
"Searing. . . . a stunning meditation on intimacy, time, and our universal need for connection. Electric and urgent, Trace Evidence is about belonging, and how love can help us not only survive, but thrive."
—Chicago Review of Books
"Exquisite and affecting. . . . an artistic vision that is dynamic and brilliantly conveyed."
—Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
"Searching. . . . he’s such a great poet, his particular experience resonates with any reader who’s ever wondered, ‘Why are we here?’"
—The Washington Post