Excerpts from Come on All You Ghosts by Matthew Zapruder '89


The Prelude

Oh, this Diet Coke is really good,
though, come to think of it tastes
like nothing plus the idea of chocolate,
or an acquaintance of chocolate
speaking fondly of certain times
it and chocolate had spoken of nothing,
or nothing remembering a field
in which it once ate the most wondrous
sandwich of ham and rustic chambered cheese
yet still wished for a piece of chocolate
before the lone walk back through
the corn then the darkening forest
to the disappointing village and its
super creepy bed and breakfast. With secret despair
I returned to the city. Something
seemed to be waiting for me.  
Maybe the “chosen guide” Wordsworth
wrote he would even were it “nothing
better than a wandering cloud”
have followed which of course to me
and everyone sounds amazing.
All I follow is my own desire,
sometimes to feel, sometimes to be
at least a little more than intermittently
at ease with being loved. I am never
at ease. Not with hours I can read or walk
and look at the brightly colored
houses filled with lives, not with night
when I lie on my back and listen,
not with the hallway, definitely
not with baseball, definitely
not with time. Poor Coleridge, son
of a vicar and a lake, he could not feel
the energy. No present joy, no cheerful
confidence, just love of friends and the wind
taking his arrow away. Come to the edge
the edge beckoned softly. Take
this cup full of darkness and stay as long

Lamp Day

All day I’ve felt today is a holiday,
but the calendar is blank.
Maybe it’s Lamp Day. There is
one very small one I love
so much I have taken it everywhere,
even with its loose switch.
On its porcelain shade are painted
tiny red flowers, clearly
by someone whose careful
hand we will never know.
Because it’s Lamp Day I’m trying
to remember where I got it,
maybe it was waiting for me
in the house on Summer Street
I moved into almost exactly
17 years ago.  I think
without thinking I just picked it
up from the floor and put it
on my desk and plugged
it into the socket and already
I was working. So much
since that moment has happened.
On Lamp Day we try
not dreamily but systematically
to remember it all.  I do it
by thinking about the hidden
reasons I love something
small. When you take
a series of careful steps
to solve a complex problem,
mathematicians call it an algorithm.
It’s like moving through
a series of rooms, each with
two doors, you must choose one,
you can’t go back. I begin
by sitting on a bench in the sun
on September 21st thinking
all the walks I have taken
in all the cities I have chosen
to live in or visit with loved ones
and alone make a sunlit
and rainy map no one
will ever be able to hold.
Is this important? Yes and no.
Now I am staring
at clean metal girders.
People keep walking past
a hotel, its bright
glass calmly reflecting
everything bad and good.
Blue boots. Bright glass.
Guests in this moment. A child
through the puddles steps
exuberant, clearly feeling the power.
I am plugged in. I am calm.
Lamp Day has a name.
Just like this cup
that has somehow drifted
into my life, and towards which
sometimes for its own reasons
my hand drifts in turn.
Upon it is written the single
word Omaha.

You Have Astounding Cosmic News

Dear sociologists, I have been asked to explain poetry to you. Thus
in the offices of Dazed Lute Press the clicking begins. Lately
we’ve been conducting field experiments into our private thoughts. One
faction next to the soul-shaped water cooler wonders whether
there’s any reason at all to remember the feeling of being a child. Is
it best to imagine one’s self again beneath the desk as the rusted
air raid siren explodes with its bi-monthly ritual Wednesday afternoon
fear distribution? Like you, I was always holding particular crayons
in the dimness of certain morning assemblies. I have been told
some of you think the only constant is constant observation. I know
city planners design the city and still there are diffusionists who pace
the deep blue edge of do you know you can never try to discover
why why flowers in the cubicles. Between you and me the buildings
also have a space for the sparrow named never who does not sing
yes the cities die when you leave them, yes no one cares what you do.
The glass-covered-in-dust windows of the thrift store display
a mirror from the 1920s. If you take it it will no longer regard young
lovers with important thoughts pushed towards the mighty river. I
will fall in love exactly about a million times and then I will die. Clouds
playing dominoes agree. At Everest on Grand someone eats yak discussing
the endless undeclared war among the neutral provinces. Long
metallic articulated girders cast thin shadows over thousands of windows.
A photograph of a pacifist smiles. He wore a white suit, was a friend
to the poor and worked for the union of unemployed telegraph workers
who listened for signals pulsing as Joni Mitchell never said from the heart of
a distant star. He was like my grandfather, after he died the city fathers
did not know what there were building when they built a museum
to encase a window in a wall brought from a faraway country where
it once overlooked the sea. Evenings through giant speakers people listen
to troubled sounds whales bounce off continental shelves. Go tell
everyone everything is related, the rich own the clouds, and you can
always locate yourself with so many shadows to instruct you.

Matthew Zapruder's poems are published in Come on All You Ghosts and appear by permission of Copper Canyon Press, www.coppercanyonpress.org.