Rainer Maria Rilke
Matthew Zapruder

I don’t want to hear about translucent stones
or precisely how much anyone desires
to be near the great secret of death

or the death of the great secret
I don’t want to listen to some figure
wearing velvet who knows flowers

know absolutely everything
when they remorselessly distinguish themselves
from the grass then without complaint

return to the earth
I am not really interested in truth
or understanding why I cram

the ultimate cookie into my mouth
and later solemnly tell my son
to be happy he’s learning a life changing lesson

by getting some raisins instead
and no I don’t care how he went to Paris
and wrote lectures to his wife

about the immaculate art that sleeps
each night ever more uncertain than usual
in some closed building

and how we must learn to draw
an abandoned bomb shelter
only the neighborhood children remember

then enter it while those aforementioned
flowers with their blank eyes do not regard us
I just want to study Marina Tsvetaeva

who wrote him in a frenzy starving
she said all poets are Jews
which to me means unlike Christians

we cannot be forgiven merely by asking
we just have to follow all the rules
and go to summer school

even in winter so our hearts
covered in leaves can like he said
in its green invisible walls survive
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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