Note on Alice Shapiro’s “I”

Alice Shapiro

I am the sum of all my parts.
They blow back like dominoes
one after another falling into place
converging time’s bits and pieces
meeting in one breath.
In this way time disappears.
The  past is now
the past is how now looks —
not spread out in year-by-year increments
but at once, cannon’s blast on target.
This pieced puzzle, no longer missing
like a great deluge of rain and waves
no more guessing
as I watch the parts lock on the spot
compressed, colliding
like a shuttle docking on the moon.
These/this moment bursts open
as does the bloom.


All the elements are there, and not there: wind is implicit in the movement of parts like dominoes, but there is no wind until the end of the domino chain has been reached except in the sense of “breath.” There is literally breadth, but that is not mentioned. Earth is implicit in “year-by-year increments” – not just light marks the seasons, but temperature – and “cannon.” Like a “great deluge of rain and waves” something is announced, the arrival of fire on a new planet.

Linking the elements that are not literally there is “time:”  it is in “bits and pieces” that clanking together constitute one; it disappears into the present that is in front of one’s eyes, hitting like a cannon blast; as a “pieced puzzle,” it is as subtle as a flood; the temporal parts of the speaker “lock in place,” but do so in a “compressed, colliding” way.

There are elements, there is time, but is there self-knowledge? It seems that self-realization is not the same thing as self-knowledge: “this/these” can’t even be distinguished, because to read too much into a part would make no sense: does it belong to us? Or to time? We are the bloom, we have achieved: the nature of certainty is not actually knowledge, but the banishment of uncertainty.

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