Four Poems by Matthew Zapruder

BOMB 88 Summer 2004
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Cat Radio

All through february month of war
the eyes of the cat are pacing cats
cats hate money they shred it in millions
stalking the light from colored glass bottle
to bottle slow leaping light is winning
listen to old drama fill this room
carry on you women of athens!
don’t let anyone turn on your radios!
listen to buster keaton stumble
his clubfoot toward the window to open
the window and make this room an orchestra
dispensing who cares I do static
to those who do not down on the street
know how much they need it they do
just as other rooms freelancing turn
their heads to whatever question the program
unveils like can a masterpiece be
one if it does not sleep
in a museum or linger
under the fingers of mingus
or must it be grand enough to discuss
a recipe for eggnog with the gathering
of death row exonerated
we’ll be right back
we have all been for a moment
by the staggering calliope of theme music
from death exonerated
then back to the problem
of how we bend
to describe long ago or cruelty writing
the walls of the cave with whose blood
or how
spring was constructed
precisely to make us
feel like a leaf licked by a dinosaur
or mountain ranges newly parted
or others like what ever happened to me
and you who said
you would be right back
we are waiting
we are paid for in tiny bundles
of time to conjecture or solve these problems
ο time of waiting I have always been
a time of waiting now it’s for you
to finish your program
the stagehand says
he doesn’t mind from imitation starting
it’s a place at least
to start all he knows
is his memory drops
kind of away
and different times call for different pills
not being a director I don’t mind
all I know is necessity
solves the problem too big for the door
big strong arms of imagination
do you know you don’t know
how you dazzle by holding
the mirror and breaking
the path of sunlight
with the question that answers
dazzle my mirror
where are people wherever they go


What I Need

Sometimes only a bridge
through the clouds.
Sometimes to be silent.
Sometimes slow vane
to learn your skills.
Stoops of Philadelphia teach
constitutional law by halting
a moment for us
a big blue one
with red brick streets
cigarettes and iron trees
to talk to each other
if others are so inclined.
Due to a conference
on the role of role playing
in organizations
for raising funds
I am wandering the capital
of our early nation.
In the hotel room
on a metallic eyebrow
I cut my hand,
the body of summer
was huge, by the window
with my antenna I was
unlocked catching
fields of wireless.
Due to a system error
the application June
unexpectedly quit.
Due to a region of lakes
an orange cat narrows
his eyes and licks
my hand then wanders
back into the future to sleep
on a tag-sale couch
you will buy so sunbeam
on the edge of winter can read
a little Ishiguro, climb
my face, then a mountain
in a picture you took.
For its museum
of natural history
the early capital is known.
It’s more like a cabinet
of wonders organized
by scientists frantic
at the prospect of science,
a museum of natural wandering.
To learn about science
here you must make
wander a method
and from that method
be willing even to wander.
On the wall of a replica
of a laboratory
where so children can
without experimenting
experiment nothing works
a movie flickers.
Day 42, the chicks
are once again ready to hatch,
the children are
once again yawning
clapping and slinging their packs
over one shoulder.
From the museum they stream
into the same yellow buses
we streamed into
when we were children.
Into when we were children
I often stream
and think of which thing
could have been different.
Not the yellow bus
waiting for me outside the museum
where the pendulum
slowly knocked over its pins.
Poor pendulum proving.
Poor tattered flag
breathed on by so many
children with teeth poorly brushed
you have not enough stars.
Now you have been restored,
and behind some glass
cling to a couple
of atoms of Betsy Ross.
While I was dreaming
the children have gone.
I missed yet again
evening arriving
to sit on its bench in the park.
Like a cyborg
it does not know
why it makes
origami with shadows of leaves
nor why it is happy
we think of it
sometimes as a person.
At night the lamps
come automatically on.
This is always
somewhat unexpected,
like a picture I hand
of when you are happy
to you. With my hand
lifted slightly I slowed
the trains, back into
the crook of my arm
you fell lunar
and heavy and dreamed.
When something small
that does what scientists
consider useful
comes to change everything
what will we do?
Still asleep you woke
to tell me
perhaps it will not.
Much later I found
a map on your shoulder.


Ancient Sorrow Steep Already

It takes a great act of will to poke your head
out of the nocturnes to say those clouds
might seem to be hanging but fact is Emily
was just being careful enough and you must
collide at least once in your teens
so better some slow debacle with a willow
better to flatten a mirthless fence
while its father emits a small overdetermined
ball of laughter refusing to pop
in your throat until a girl with her own
small bird in hers makes of your story
a sleep nest in her chest and knows
better an ambulance followed by an ambulance
for who ever heard such a thing in a story
do they do that always or only on weekends
do you bruise most to know most things you grasp
you cannot sometimes silence without any wishing
is best for others on the phone
like I’d like to purchase you something
you wouldn’t notice but won’t I was thinking
perhaps a replica of your house so without it
in any way impacting them guests and calamities
could be savored by you and Jim impervious
though I suppose that’s what’s known
as a poor idea and what could we do
about Rita no way to duplicate her quantumly
complex compact among eagerness anger
and rolling on her back to duplicate
such a pleasure would be for you cruel
as removing the way you so gracefully cede
a portion of silence that it may regard
itself inside someone shoeless hunched
over The Agony of Flies in your kitchen
eating too much gumbo and raveling
awkward theories of how one constructs
a system of ethics from the words not ghosts
but ether itself forms in ouija and suddenly
everyone knows you mean scrabble and feels
all the more kindly toward you young poet
so why not agree we had a choice
to allow it to continue just as anyway
why not instead a big bright day
your garden can hang like a mirror reflecting
ideas like a friend sits you down in a time
you are not usually sat down in a bar and says
friend and suddenly you are with him
constructing a chrysalis that will survive
long after the small pain formed inside it
has gone on in all of your poems to become
famous for saying friend I’ve struggled
a long time to tell you this


More Trees

From each I’ve climbed
a little less perfect
down a little more clumsy
in carrying
what I don’t know.
How to walk
with a limp that conceals
no suffering.
How to wave in spring
and dismiss it
too soon
so as not to turn
all the while through me
into one square of blue.
How if I don’t
hold still
or anything at all
blue can drift
into my hand
that destroyer.
How if I wave
the other crooked
true finger knows
I should have been taught
or just known
the shy air conditioner
in our window sailed
all the way from
that destroyer
Eleni you said it
stars never glitter
like money, stars
are mere and accept
our praise precisely
so we don’t with our grace
disturb them.
Never write about trees,
agreed my friend and I.
Let’s agree on porchlight
my friend and I agreed,
hurtling back down
into each other
the city overlooked.
It was always
a Tuesday the city
overlooked a playground
climbing all over
the children, small
hands in big ones
say go learning
to walk hand
in no one’s hand
to the school of
outside the classroom
crying, your nose
just seems to bleed
for no reason,
one wants not to be
by oneself alone,
one wants ice, one
wants pressure,
one wants not to hear
another reading
they are readying
in the times,
go piercing
the buildings say,
placid the buildings
lean down collapsing
must we collapse
for you to go
from your shell you shadow
of porchlight who
did not
what he must
but he should
believing into the dictionary
of tree heads below
where a light among leaves
I am
above me
and known
to let me linger.

—Matthew Zapruder is the author of American Linden and the editor of Verse Press.

Originally published in

BOMB 88, Summer 2004

Featuring interviews with Olafur Eliasson, Ellen Phelan, Percival Everett, Francisco Goldman and Esther Allen, Ben Katchor and Alexaner Theroux, Jorgen Leth and Ann Mette Lundtofte, Michael Bell, and Mauricio Kagel. 

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