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Short Fiction
Scavenging the Country for a Heartbeat
by Neil Shepard

Price: $10.00
80 pages
trade paper
ISBN: 0922811164
LCCN #: 92-035765


Women are exempt from all of the positive precepts related to time.-Talmud

We may commit suttee.
May carve our faces
with fine scars, paint
flesh with the clay
of our condition. We may
cast ourselves down in dust
or make ourselves less,
more beautiful for touching the earth
lightly in our tiny shoes,
the bones broken smaller.

If we rise, we may
stretch our necks with brass rings,
wavering on the brink of extinction
to please the suzerain.
We must stifle our screams
of pain or pleasure-
the long vowels and consonants.
partaking too much of time,
too long in the vanishing,
must not rise from the harem tent
into the night sky.

These precepts, hung
above the earth like the blue dome,
we cannot touch. Like the sun
that rules forever,
marking the days and seasons
of our labor. To every sovereign
with the sun in his eyes,
we seem as shadows
bound to the earth,
our suppliant arms beautiful
as the limbs of bonsai.

“Neil Shepard’s first book of poetry is an event of encouragement to me. Shepard brings us an astonishing originality of imagery, objects we had never thought of before. To read these poems is an awakening. I hope it comes to many readers.”—Hayden Carruth

“These poems of recollection paint to a sensible imagination, and not simply to fancy, by a reconciliation of conflicts into a graceful and intelligent whole.”—William Hathaway

“There is a solid maturity about these poems that belies the fact that this is a first book. Shepard is, in fact, solidly mature, both in person and in craft. His subject is common enough: a man's progress from love and youth, through loss, to a mid-life rebuilding. But what might be commonplace in other hands is stirring and complex in Shepard’s. His special gift is the expansive narrative of image, a sort of hybrid of true narrative with emotionally crisp, almost lyric snapshots. There is both a pleasing directness and a pleasant musicality about Shepard's work. Let us hope we see more of it soon.”—Booklist

“Lyrical gems, summoning emotions that are painful, direct and unclouded with superficial imagery.”—Publishers Weekly

Like every important poet, Neil Shepard has learned to transform description into evocation, occasion into dramatic situations, and subject into the stuff of revelation.”—Bill Tremblay

“In his powerful and poignant first collection, Neil Shepard overlays the dark map of the troubled human heart with the luminous pathways and passages of an incisive, compassionate mind. And so, with these eloquent and intimate sketches, he has let us glimpse the true geography of the American soul.”—David St. John

“Shepard's voice, by turns comic and dramatic, clipped and expansive, is one of musical bravado--a versatile modulation equal to the task of mapping out the often perilous distance between the heart's supple desires and, roughly, what is.”—Poet & Critic

“Directly rooted in the evocation of memory, Shepard's poetry deftly searches the past through directly rendered images and through a deeper structure in which these images become internal.” —Mid-American Review


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