NEA Literature Fellowships

Natalie Shapero

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(2015 - Poetry)

"The Easy Part Was Hard"

I shy from the chore of dying, knowing God
will sort us into separate Heavens. I don't
want to be divided. And yes, I understand
it is too much to ask, that Heaven be free
of that old impulse to cordon off empires,
mark down who goes where. Still, each next
glimpse of Heaven convinces me more
against it. In Heaven they still have murder,
but say it's better, because the murder is quickly
solved. Scuba death a little too convenient?
They check the dive computer, have him
cornered in an instant. No need, they boast,
to canvass the city with questions. Still, I have
some questions. When I was a child, I believed
if I lost my key, some evil person would find it
and venture inside. I had no sense of how
he'd have to go home to home forever, suffer
a thousand ill fits in a thousand locks.
It wouldn't be worth the trial, I now know,
living, as I do, so close to Heaven. I sleep
against it and wake with its imprint on me.
I remember all the times I nearly died: careening
across Route 3 in the ice or held up with a knife
or seized by an undertow or by your hand.

Natalie Shapero is the author of the poetry collection No Object (Saturnalia Books, 2013), and her writing has appeared in the Believer, The New Republic, The New Yorker, Poetry, The Progressive, and elsewhere. She holds degrees in creative writing and in law, and, in recent years, has served as a civil rights litigation fellow with Americans United for Separation of Church and State as well as a writing and teaching fellow with the Kenyon Review and Kenyon College. The recipient of a Ruth Lilly Fellowship and a GLCA New Writers Award, she lives in Columbus, Ohio, and works as an Associate Editor of the Kenyon Review.

Photo by Natalie Shapero

Author's Statement

When I look at so much of the art that has changed my life and the lives of those around me, I see that these pieces have something in common: they were supported by the National Endowment for the Arts. I'm incredibly honored and grateful that I will be able to say the same about the book I'm currently writing, which I will be able to complete with the generous funding provided by the NEA Fellowship. This new collection of poems, entitled Sore Subject, takes up themes of mortality and memory, considering the ways in which we use obfuscation, deflection, and levity to narrate painful recollections and future fears. Receiving the fellowship is an invaluable affirmation of this work-in-progress.