small textlarge text

Daniel M. Shapiro

At the Helm: Found Poems

Download MP3


Waiting for Daddy
to come home.
We were four and six
and my "Tiny" doll
was my constant companion.


The cook
has more help
than he can handle.
When he gets time to do it
our family breadwinner
is a wonderful chef.


A beloved puppet
named Ralph
whom Julie,
then two, called Raf.
Daddy was forever
the strings for us.


That night at her party
our family musician
took to the keyboard
as we sang her a Happy.


With Daddy at the helm,
we're in good hands.
I love this little glass boat.

From The Nixon 1968 Yearbook: "Family Album— Selections from Our Scrapbook," by Tricia and Julie Nixon, campaign literature published by Nixon/Agnew Committee

Had the Roles Been Reversed, Washington, DC, 12/21/70

Download MP3

Both men would've been in suits and ties, with Elvis smiling awkwardly, reluctant to give Nixon a Bureau of Illegal Surveillance Monitoring badge. The Colonel, that proto-Cheney svengali, was absent, handling the business in Cuba and Chile, but this time, the King had the Red Button at the ready, largest rhinestone on the big belt buckle. After the photo op, Nixon would return to Yorba Linda, extend a reel-to-reel tape across the entrance of a school for a ribbon-cutting ceremony, warn children about the dangers of tattling. Back at the White House, 2-year-old Lisa Marie would beam in front of the Christmas tree, under which first lady Priscilla had placed a 23-room dollhouse, replica of a Memphis home the girl would never know.

Bain & Company's Willard Mitt Romney at Studio 54 on Its Second Day, New York, 4/27/77

Download MP3

Day 1 wouldn't have worked, what with booze for sale sans license, but today was fair game. Cranberry juice, please, he shouts over disco beats and string arrangements, reaching into the right pocket of his Brooks Brothers vest, peeling out a 10 spot. Keep the change. Looking up at the ceiling, he is unable to determine what use the Man in the Moon would have for a tiny spoon. When he reaches the room encased in rubber, he removes a Waterman pen and tiny notepad from the left vest pocket, jots down: Brilliant concept. That would keep our boardroom clean once and for all. Weaving through colors, he catches his breath before a bearded, shrouded man with a parabola of light emanating from long hair, purple shadow smeared on eyelids. Don't worry, the man says. I'm not who you think I am. Steve is in there. Pointing a bony finger toward a green door, the man directs 30-year-old Mitt toward the meeting, where he hopes to consult, to lay the groundwork for financial solvency, to advise how to make the scene without losing your shirt. The room behind the green door appears tiny but stretches past R-rated, so our man swiftly exits, wipes four inches of glitter off his Florsheims before re-entering the Cadillac back to LaGuardia, while the notebook burns a hole in his pocket.

Match Game '79

Download MP3

When Richard Dawson left, he wrote FARE THEE WELL on a blue card. CBS pulled the plug on the 1970s without warning, ratings obscured by partial meltdown, hostage crisis. The day it stopped, President Carter fought for his life, wielding canoe paddle to ward off swamp rabbit. The show would be resurrected without years, without markers to pin specifics. Blanks would shift from beginning to middle to end, their fill-ins stuffed into desolate dressing rooms. Toupees, ashtrays, Botany 500 cast-offs, carpet remnants would all be loaded into prop trunks, donated to middle school theater clubs. Students would sneak in risqué couplings under coats. You can't do anything else once you do game shows, Charles Nelson Reilly would say, hissing outward bound, baring choppers at the powers that be. You have no career.

Soundtrack of a Strike, 8/3/81

Download MP3

In '64, he flaunted his acting chops, slapping Angie Dickinson with a non-dominant right. She didn't want to go, but he tightened those eyelids, said: You get back to the hotel and stay there. Now four months removed from a bullet near the heart, he juts out that mad left hand, tells them, Get back to work or you're fired. He'd turned on the radio hours before the short march of union began. He'd been moved by a two-day-old tune, a simple sentiment: Forever, I'll hold you close in my arms; I can't resist your charm. He'd been moved not because of his feelings for Nancy, not because of Lionel's feelings for Diana, but by the feelings of those people, those people drawn to the aw-shucks grandpa. He could say I just murdered your mommy, little gal in that cadence, and it would still be there, still working. Twelve years later, some of the ones he'd let go would get their jobs back, but he would still be winning, still mumbling about a love that's endless.

➥ Bio