Matthew Zapruder's The Pajamaist
By Canada I have always been fascinated.
All that snow and acquiescing.
All that emptiness, all those butterflies
marshaled into an army of peace.
Moving north away from me
Canada has no border, away
like the state its northern border
withers into the skydome. In a world
full of mistrust and self-medication
I have always hated Canada.
It makes me feel like I'm shouting
at a child for letting a handful
of pine needles run through his fist.
Canada gets along with everyone
while I hang, a dark cloud
above the schoolyard. I know
we need war, all the skirmishes
to keep our borders where
we have placed them, all
the migration, all the difference.
Just like Canada the Dalai Lama
is now in Canada, and everyone
is fascinated. When they come
to visit me, no one ever leaves me
saying, the most touching thing
about him is he's so human.
Or, I was really glad to hear
so many positive ideas regardless
of the consequences expressed.
Or I could drink a case of you.
No one has ever pedaled
every inch of thousands of roads
through me to raise awareness
for my struggle for autonomy.
I have pity but no respect for others,
which is not compassion, just ordinary
love based on attitudes toward myself.
I wonder how long I can endure.
In Canada the leaves are falling.
When they do each one rustles
maybe to the white-tailed deer
of sadness, and it's clear
that whole country does not exist
to make me feel crappy
like a candelabra hanging
above the prison world,
condemned to freely glow.
Another part of the infamous "poetry bus" that came through Ottawa a few weeks ago was Brooklyn poet and Wave Books editor Matthew Zapruder, with his second poetry collection, The Pajamaist (Port Townsend WA: Copper Canyon Press, 2006). The author of one previous collection, American Linden (Tupelo Press, 2002), he also co-translated the Romanian poet Eugen Jebeleanu's final collection, Secret Weapon (Coffee House Press, 2007). Obviously his "Canada" poem was one of the first that struck me in this collection [see my note here on the poetry of New York poet Lisa Jarnot, where I quoted hers; should someone here put together a collection of poems about Canada by non-Canadians, perhaps?], but there were many places where I was also struck. The moments that Zapruder strings together are small but carry enormous weight, and work against each other in the most intricate arrays of beadwork; craft here is everything, and it’s the human moments that bring these poems up to that kind of radiant clarity that is so often sought, but so easily, and otherwise missed. In the middle of the collection, for example, is the impressive series "Twenty Poems for Noelle," writing his own suite of post-September 11, 2001 New York City poems, where he begins:
Noelle, somewhere in an apartment
symphony number two
listens to you breathing.
Broken glass in the street.
What was once unglowing glows.
Through tiny holes the page
exhales, fire escape white in the sun,
and vaguely parasitic
cramped in the courtyard
endlessly undulate the leaves.
Silos preside over thousands of miles.
Tiny puffs move the flags.
The child of the happiest woman
died and who will save us?
It's good to end something never begun,
but the question always is. Static
in the trees. People in their clothes.
Empty tables facing the street
in open verandas, wait for beautiful
women, they always come.
I'm impressed with the strength of Zapruder's poems, and wonder just how strong he might be by the end of this poetry bus tour, one of the few to be going the whole fifty-one days of it, from coast to American coast and points-in-between (including their few Canadian dates). Will there be new poems from him and others as a result of the tour? After fifty-one daily readings in different towns, will there be anything left of Matthew Zapruder?