Matthew Zapruder: Two Poems

SUN BEAR

yesterday at the Oakland zoo
I was walking alone for a moment
past the enclosure holding the sun bear
also known as beruang madu
it looked at me without interest
it has powerful jaws and truly loves honey
it sleeps in a high hammock
its claws look made out of wood
and if it dreams at all it is of Malaysia
home of its enemy the clouded leopard
a gorgeous arboreal
hunting and eating machine
whose coat resembles a python
now it is night and the zoo is closed
some animals are sleeping
the nocturnals moving in their cages
getting ready to hunt nothing
I don’t know why but I feel sure
something has woken the sun bear
it is awake in the dark
maybe it is my spirit animal
I am reading about the early snow
that has fallen on the northeast
all the power shutting down
the weather going insane
the animals cannot help us
they go on moving without love
though we look into their eyes and feel
sure we see it there and maybe
we are right nothing
can replace animal love
not even complicated human love
we sometimes choose to allow
ourselves to be chosen by
despite what everyone knows
the problem is
in order to love anything
but an animal you cannot allow
yourself to believe in those things
that are if we don’t stop them
going to destroy us

 

 

WHAT CAN POETRY DO

In Africa people are angry.
They are climbing embassy walls
and burning whatever is there.
Each time I click on some words
and read what we call news
although it is always too old
I feel certain some people
while I was reading have died.
I know I am here merely reading.
I just sit in my room and worry.
As always I can do nothing
So I close all the portals and go
deep in my mind to discover
something about Tunisia.
Tunisia of desert silence
broken by occasional battles
where a man set himself on fire
then revolution then elections.
Tunisia whose cosmopolitan
capital city was Carthage
the Romans completely destroyed.
Tunisia where they filmed
the familiar home planet scenes
of the space movie we all stood in line
a million years ago to see.
I don’t know anything else.
Now I remember something
I once read about the forests
people are carefully growing
far from the capital city.
The trees are eating the poison
probably much too slowly.
But still they take the particles
and even if we don’t deserve it
our air is a little clearer.
It’s like the painting I saw
of a witch in the forest,
her hair in a black column rising
like smoke from a burning structure.
She was dragging three or four ropes
the color of umbilical blood.
She was guarded by her wolf familiar.
At first she terrified me.
Then I saw she was causing
certain spells to protect
far away new mothers
whose children must in the middle
of great violence be born.
The men surround the embassy.
It will never be clear who sent them.
For a moment I feel ashamed.
I breathe the clear terrible air.

 

Matthew Zapruder

Matthew Zapruder is the author of four collections of poetry, most recently Come On All You Ghosts (Copper Canyon 2010), a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, and Sun Bear (Copper Canyon, 2014). He has received a 2011 Guggenheim Fellowship, a William Carlos Williams Award, a May Sarton Award from the Academy of American Arts and Sciences, and a Lannan Foundation Residency Fellowship in Marfa, TX. An Assistant Professor in the St. Mary’s College of California MFA program and English Department, and an Editor-at-Large at Wave Books, he lives in Oakland, CA.

Zapruder will be reading with the Anansi Launch at Drawn & Quarterly on April 23rd at 7.

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