The Neighbors, Upstairs

Michael Shewmaker

BPR 42 | 2015


Michael Shewmaker is a Wallace Stegner Fellow in poetry at Stanford University. His poems appear or are forthcoming in Yale Review, Southwest Review, Sewanee Theological Review, New Criterion, The Journal, American Arts Quarterly, and elsewhere.

They only stirred at night while we were sleeping.
In a small space that must have mirrored ours,
they moved freely between the muted hours—
my father’s snoring and my mother’s weeping.
Like the tired gods that pace above this city—
abolished and forgotten by the hand
that shaped them, prodigals who understand
the gravity of loss—they showed no pity
for those who slept beneath them.
                      From the vent,
a tremolo of words—though indistinct,
distorted by the duct, yet somehow linked
to longing—kept me up with their intent.

But now that I am older, torn by choices,
it’s difficult to sleep without their voices.