The Odyssey cover

The Odyssey

Matthew Zapruder

Copyright © 2011 Matthew Zapruder. All rights reserved.

Poem for Engagement

Even though
every morning
I remember
I'm so glad
the day begins
we go on
it's our secret
you and I know
who can know
this afternoon
no one stares
from the windows
the alley
is empty
strange to think
the spaces
will be filled by dreaming
people thinking
they're awake
we are people
and we know
how real a dream
when it's empty
but for the few
great questions is

It is Tuesday

From room to room
after you left
I wandered a while
in the hours
as instructed
I have cooked
the mushroom soup
picked up a paperback
I have read
but forgotten
had some coffee
it is quiet
I don't know why
all afternoon
I think of you
in the traffic
the rain
peacefully falling
like some plastic beads
from the '70's
when they took all the doors
off the closets
and our parents smoked
all night downstairs
and laughed too loud
we couldn't hear
what they were
and what they knew
if you hate me
it must be
for ancient reasons

Poem for a Friend

When people travel across the country they often call it the land
sometimes they carry polarizing filters for their cameras
these filters remove certain components of light
improving the contrast for instance of buildings and sky
and making everything look both more and less real
personally I would rather be walking but not too far
I love to live in the city living with someone who loves it too
we walk to small parks and drink coffee watching the tourists
I know I should feel pride when I think back on all the changes
later when we go to a bar I feel I am still somehow there
particle by particle you seem to be disappearing
when you talk to me about mountains I know
if you move any closer to them I will never see you again
everyone else does it too I mean living so why can't you
I've never seen anything as sad as that night you were singing to a large field
it was like you were glad there weren't any people in it
just a few spotlights and the weird way grass looks black at night

For Robin Blaser

I don't think much
of what you thought of
when you lived not too far from here
with the relaxed golden
godless beautiful people
that was many years before
unbitterly you went to live
north among
the very old magic lack of sunlight
now that I live here
I don't think too much
I just sit in my chair
and maintain
the distinction?
just me sitting here
the window and what's outside
someone else's presence
is not with me
and therefore with me
I find it very easy not to love
part of someone
letting pass
the blurry actuality
my own dry bright suburban heart
perhaps the orange breasted robin
your namesake picking up its alien head and howling
every once in while
then shoveling the dirt in the garden
with its narrow horrible beak
again looking for something
the coffee pot just sits there        maybe some tea
  would be better?
I have a favorite cup
I am not much help
to myself in figuring
what I should stop trying to do
I am totally rigid and aware
all mail comes to me
I do not hear
the calm song I know

Poem for Massachusetts

these days
sometimes you sleep
in a purple t-shirt
that says Massachusetts
which means something
in an older language
I can never remember
for one whole year
before I knew you
driving down Route 9
thinking nothing
seemed so hard
I just kept singing
stay with the plan
each time it felt wronger
which is a word
adults pretending
to pretend
to be childlike use
I heard it one
time when the leaves
in a drawing
someone I don't
know anymore
handed to me
were blue it was
how sick she was
I should have known
her long fingers
shook all summer
green chlorophyll
covers up the colors
all the tourists
in the fall
later come to see
I can't tell you
how many people
in the making
of the experience
that made this poem
were harmed
sometimes leaves
are an emblem
meaning an object
symbolizing something
abstract like glory
or destruction
and sometimes
just sunlight
delivery systems

Poem for Happiness

the dead spider rested on my windowsill
using one piece of paper I pushed it
onto another piece of paper
then dropped it accidentally
behind some old paint cans next to the door
the orange tulips you gave me
for a second seemed to be in a mostly nice way
laughing as I bent down
wearing dishwashing gloves a blue
color not found in nature
in order to find the little brown body
that was for primal reasons
horrifying me and stand in the doorway
and hold it out in front of me
to the wind which even if everywhere else
in the city it is calm
rushes down our street
where the yellow Kawasaki
is always
parked next to the green bin
I threw the candles we can't light anymore
into because their wicks are gone
and you cried because
I had thrown out the beautiful candles
the sun turns in a different direction
everything becomes suddenly chrome
and now I am thinking on a hillside
where the wind is blowing very strongly
we will get married
our future a long sunny avenue
we have already walked part way down
or a pink umbrella
or a very loud water feature
in the middle of the city
around it on a concrete ledge
the workers sit next to each other
even though they do not know each other
and read silently together and alone

Poem for Lu Chi

All day it has wanted to rain.
A constant breeze
from the north where shadows live
in ancient government
among the old huge trees
carries a little scent of wood
into the city. It ruffles
some waxy green leaves
outside my window.
The window is very solid,
my hair is completely still.
Lu Chi in the 3rd century
you wrote your treatise
to discover the difference
between good and bad writing.
But you already knew
the leaves fall in autumn
and each artist has
a particular way
to magic and sadness.
I know my beloved
is very close, she works
in a modern building
made of orange neon and steel,
I don't have to dream of her,
she is very far away from heaven,
there are no actual mountains
between us. Soon we will
have lunch together.
Then maybe I will write
a letter and drop it
into a blue box. Some rivers
go underground, I know
one here in the city
beneath the armory
flows, many times
I have walked above it
and felt a peace I am happy
I will never be able to explain.

The Odyssey

in a chariot
in a dream
three thousand years ago
I sit resting
thinking that cloud
looks like a spear
armed with plans
I wake and think
our house seems
like a small
palace we keep
ready for someone
I read a few pages
of The Odyssey
trans. Richmond Lattimore
someone dead
touched these pages
I hand you your coffee
your face shines
turning the plastic
rod opens
the venetians onto
the backyard
and all the crows
feeding on the fig tree
fig trees are lucky
they keep crows
off the vegetables
funny to think
god could be gone
visiting the Ethiopians
a long time gone
has been our god
or so we have
for a long time
been saying we believe
can you believe
the year I was born
someone touched
these pages
life is not a journey
or a hecatomb
which is a sacrifice
100 cattle slain
then roasted until
the limbs are black
then eaten
we are sated
this morning I tried
out the idea
life is a relief well
but that is boring
now engaged
we are watching
all our friends
watch us like
a very good program
that turns out
to be boring
almost every day I see
a hummingbird
it's still surprising
halt above some plant
and I can see why
that is what they call him
I remember very
early one morning
in the backyard I saw
a man very slowly
climb up the trellis
breaking it
with his foot
then scramble
onto the blue
roof of the shed
a little lighter
just like the sky
than the ocean
later into the kitchen
I go and pour
new water
into the glass
we are using
as a vase
for the short stemmed
red and light
purple sweet
smelling flowers
the flower seller
told us were sweet peas
we bought them
and brought them home
around themselves
they somehow filled
our house
with factory gloom
after you go
the great machines
do nothing
I make a short journey
one part of the house
still so dark
it scares me


"It is Tuesday" was originally publishing in Guernica. "Poem for Massachusetts" was originally published in Route 9. "Poem for Lu Chi" was originally published in Two Weeks. "Poem for Happiness" was originally published in Likestarlings.

Matthew Zapruder

Matthew Zapruder is the author of three collections of poetry, most recently Come on All You Ghosts (Copper Canyon), winner of the 2010 Goodreads Readers' Choice award for poetry, and selected as one of the top 5 poetry books of 2010 by Publishers Weekly, as well as the 2010 Booklist Editors' Choice for poetry. Currently he works as an editor for Wave Books, and teaches as a member of the core faculty of UCR-Palm Desert's Low Residency MFA in Creative Writing. He lives in San Francisco.