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Culture

Senior Center

Light here is old, suspended

cloudy, from the cathedral ceiling,

far above the somehow brighter sheen

of its reflection on the checkered

linoleum, on the backing

and thick legs of the metal chairs

around the bridge tables,

the mah jong tables, the bingo tables—

light stumbles, it seems, it gropes,

not so much from the weight of night

against it through the sun roof

and the giant windows

as from the far off

shining of itself

outside itself

in chairs and tables

and all across the white

checks and the black checks,

as if the source of light,

the secret, were not in light at all

but in these brighter traces

which it reaches for

the way the blind do,

baffled, feeling

the smooth braille

of every surface

for the light encrypted

sense of what’s

unreadable and clear.

Alan Shapiro’s most recent book, “Old War,” was published by Houghton Mifflin in 2008. This poem is from his forthcoming “Night of the Republic.”

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