Fred Shaw

The World Feels Small
After Shaking Hands with Bruno Sammartino

Banquet Still Life by Abraham van Beyeren

How comforting, Milgram’s six-degrees
of separation between any two people,
residents of a winding venue
in the widening web of our relations.

And on a slow night at the bistro, servers play
the Kevin Bacon Game for hours, connecting random celebs
to the onetime Footloose actor,
the center of the universe for those who dabble
in relative distance and fame.

I’ll think of this as I shake hands
with the legendary pro-wrestler I’m waiting on,
only two degrees from Schwarzenegger,
three from a Kennedy, five from
Alfred Hitchcock, and Orson Welles.

And when the Irish writer tells me about showing
Arthur Miller the sights of Belfast, all I’m interested in
is this link to overdose and assassination. The closest I come
to conspiracy–a New Orleans barstool where Oswald once sat
and a shady landlord with mob ties.

Over the years, I’ve found myself sweating beside others
in hot restaurant kitchens. A few of them will succeed
at murder, suicide, or dying in their sleep.
A strange pride wells-up when I come across
their names in the paper.

So, I stand two degrees from Jimmy Snuka,
three from Andy Warhol, four from Edward Teller,
and consider the misfortunes of some I’ve known–

the girl who jumped from a bridge,
the boy who died from a jealous lover’s fire–
until I’m linked with a friend
who panhandles after losing his sight
to a mugger outside the 7-11.
It feels like rubbernecking.


About the writer:
Fred Shaw is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, and Carlow University, where he received his MFA.  He teaches writing and literature at Point Park University and Carlow University. His first collection. Scraping Away, is forthcoming from CavanKerry Press.  A book reviewer and Poetry Editor for Pittsburgh Quarterly, his poem, “Argot,” is featured in the 2018 full-length documentary, Eating & Working & Eating & Working.  The film focuses on the lives of local service-industry workers. His poem “Scraping Away” was selected for the PA Public Poetry Project in 2017.  He lives in Pittsburgh with his wife and rescued hound dog.

Image: Banquet Still Life by Abraham van Beyeren (1620/1621-1690). Oil on canvas. 118.2 x 167.6 cm. No completion date specified. Public domain.