Nebraska Center for Writers

by Karl Shapiro


The living rooms of my neighbors are like beauty parlors,
    like night-club powder rooms, like international air-
    port first-class lounges.  The bathrooms of my neigh-
    bors are like love nests — Dufy prints, black Kleenex,
    furry towels, toilets so highly bred they fill and fall
    without a sigh (why is there no bidet in so-clean
    America?).  The kitchens of my neighbors are like
    cars:  what gleaming dials, what toothy enamels, en-
    gines that click and purr, idling the hours away.  The
    basements of my neighbors are like kitchens; you could
    eat off the floor.  Look at the furnace, spotless
    as a breakfront, standing alone, prize piece, the god
    of the household.

But I'm no different.  I arrange my books with a view to
    their appearance.  Some highbrow titles are promi-
    nently displayed.   The desk in my study is carefully
    littered; after some thought I hang a diploma on the
    wall only to take it down again.  I sit at the window
    where I can be seen.  What do my neighbors think of
    me — I hope they think of me. I fix the light to hit
    the books.  I lean some rows one way, some rows an-

A man's house is his stage.  others walk on to play their bit
    parts. Now and again a soliloquy, a birth, an adultery.

The bars of my neighbors are various, ranging from none
    at all to the nearly professional, leather stools, auto-
    matic coolers, a naked painting, a spittoon for show.
The businessman, the air-force captain, the professor with
    tenure — it's a neighborhood with a sky.

Reprinted with permission
from The Bourgeois Poet
Copyright © 1964
by Karl Shapiro

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