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Of a Man on the Street, A Card Game and a Dog: Three Poems by Andrew Shields

Apr 19, 2019

Andrew Shields brings us three poems all the way from Basel, Switzerland. "Hearsay" contains within its unorthodox verses a meta and self-referential device that affirms and negates the existence of the subject of its verses. "Pick a Card" reflects the musicality of the poet, who is a member of the band Human Shields. As such, the poem could easily be read as a song or adapted into one given its evident lyrical style. "Pit Bull on the Twelfth Floor" is a tender tribute to a companion versifying a brief moment that suspends time to observe a majestic being.

Hearsay

The man on the street is repeating whatever he hears someone say:
"I know that I should have responded at once to your message."
"Jennifer, here comes the bus!" "What if everyone started to drive
according to rules of their own?" "The terrorists win."
"Stop calling me every five minutes!" "She told him to find a new place
by Friday, or else she will throw all his stuff out the window."
"No, I don't know what they meant." "That's the last thing that I want to hear!"
"This guy I know posted the link to your story this morning."
"Let me just ponder that thought for a while." "Three cheers for the girls!"
"Wait till you see it!" "I wish you had told me before."
"What shall we do after supper?" "They opened a branch in the city."
"Somebody thinks that the man on the street's really real!"


Pick a Card

I'll break the seal on this new deck
               and throw the jokers out.
Watch my hands; I'll tell your eyes
               to put aside all doubt.

While my banter gets you talking,
               the cards begin to blur.
Eight times I'll cut the deck and shuffle
              — luck's entrepreneur.

Pick a card, any card,
             a number or a face.
Pick a card, any card –
             or would you like an ace?

I need no sleeve to hide it in,
              no mark to see it by.
My ten fingers, my two hands,
              see better than an eye.

Perfection's just a parlor trick –
              or so you seem to think.
Well, find your card without my help,
              and I'll buy you a drink.

Pick a card, if it ain't hard,
              a number or a face.
Pick a card, any card –
              I'll find its hiding place.

While I talk, I'll build a house
             of cards to watch it fall,
and yours will be the one that lies
             underneath them all.

Don't watch my hands; they'll never tell
             the secrets that they know.
Don't read my lips; they'll always tell
             a lie before you go.

Pick a card, any card –
             a seven or a ten?
Pick a card, or leave it be.
            When did the game begin?


Pit Bull on the Twelfth Floor

for Durs Grünbein

Was macht ein Kampfhund
in einer Zwei-Zimmer-Wohnung
im 12. Stock einer Neubauwohnung?

He'll walk stiffly into the back room, smell
nothing but himself, his owner,
last night's cigarettes, last night's wine.

He'll walk slowly back into the front room,
circle around, lie down, get up,
head into the kitchen for water.

Then he'll lie down, close his eyes,
dream, twitching and growling,
wake at the sound of a door
opening, closing, an elevator.

The keys as the elevator opens,
the familiar footsteps in the corridor —
he'll run into the cramped hallway,

with grace, for a moment. 

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About the Contributor

Andrew Shields lives in Basel, Switzerland. His collection of poems "Thomas Hardy Listens to Louis Armstrong" was published by Eyewear in June 2015. His band Human Shields released the album "Somebody's Hometown" in 2015 and the EP "Défense de jouer" in 2016.

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