Elegy for a Small Metal Artifact
Matthew Zapruder

the year I was born
planes were dropping orange chemicals

on the forests, just
like today Russian tanks

moved through a capital,
people changed

the signs so they would lose
their way in ancient streets

then threw bottles full
of flame and in front of green

tanks stood so much more
beautiful than anything,

why am I writing anything down,
watching men on television

discuss how many times
the world can end,

for a moment
it doesn’t matter

as long as it happens
when I am building

a tower with my son,
he tells me where I must put

the little block so tiny people
he says are us will have a place

to sit and watch the end,
I would like to be sad

for everything one last time,
to make just one thing

I could hand to god and say
here’s your light back

and yes I agree it really
would be better

if men did nothing more,
send the waters again,

I don’t want to be forgiven
for turning away

or towards the people in a basement
with no food or light

listening for planes,
I keep thinking

of Nazim Hikmet on a train
staring out the window on his way

to Moscow where he would
die holding the morning paper,

about him choosing
to go to prison,

listing all the things
he never knew he loved,

snow and asphalt and cosmonauts,
I wish he were here

so we could together
say our endless goodbye.
Matthew Zapruder is the author of five collections of poetry, most recently Father’s Day (Copper Canyon, 2019), as well as two books of prose: Why Poetry (Ecco, 2017) and Story of a Poem (Unnamed, 2023). He is editor at large at Wave Books, where he edits contemporary poetry, prose, and translations. From 2016–2017 he held the annually rotating position of Editor of the Poetry Column for the New York Times Magazine, and was the Editor of Best American Poetry 2022. He teaches in the MFA in Creative Writing at Saint Mary’s College of California.

Read Matthew Zapruder interviewed by Emily Yaremchuk.


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