Rob Shetterly

I walk down and around towards artist
and pretend I am not spellbound
by his lecture of commanding confidence
and of grief that filled the room and
followed his words. It’s grief that wonders
where we are going and is so afraid
that we have forgotten where we came from.
I appear self-absorbed in the blending
brush strokes that collectively compose
the faces of the most honest Americans,
in his modest modernist opinion,
their names and faces so different,
but united by that same smile that knows.
Overwhelmed I step in line to get my
post card signed and get on my way.
The girl in front of me says her name to him
and then she is quiet, I am quiet, so quiet; he scribbles
away and affirms to himself that he is humble and sixty.
I quibble away in my head and affirm that
it’s not the right time to talk to her, to jumble and bumble;
it’s six o’clock and getting dark in here.
The two of us stare intently at his moving hands and moving sapience,
so as not to look inwards into ourselves,
to feel ourselves and the slightly fiery feelings
growing in our chests, to realize that
even though we’ve been side by side the entire time,
we’re unable to say much of anything,
and want Americans who tell the truth to sympathize
with our shyness and say it all.

A quick note: Although I won’t elaborate any more on this poem, Rob Shetterly is a real person. He is an incredible painter and speaker. If he’s in your general area sometime soon, I highly advocate attending a speech, a showing of his portraits, or getting his book. Check out his website:


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