American Linden


Poetry. It is rare to come across a first book that embraces the world--the way we see it, and the way it can be imagined--with such a wise and graceful mixture of humor, loss, intelligence, wit, self-deprecation and hope. AMERICAN LINDEN is such a first collection. The poems in this book are valuable, even necessary. They are, in the most important sense, love poems: to people, to ideas, to feelings, and to the mind itself, which--by means of language--move with honesty, wit, and distinction among the fleeting ...
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Poetry. It is rare to come across a first book that embraces the world--the way we see it, and the way it can be imagined--with such a wise and graceful mixture of humor, loss, intelligence, wit, self-deprecation and hope. AMERICAN LINDEN is such a first collection. The poems in this book are valuable, even necessary. They are, in the most important sense, love poems: to people, to ideas, to feelings, and to the mind itself, which--by means of language--move with honesty, wit, and distinction among the fleeting things of this world. "Matthew Zapruder is a dangerous poet; his poems implicate us in demonstrations of lift-off and escape velocity while also proving the calamity of gravity"--Dean Young.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Matthew Zapruder, editor-in-chief at Verse Press, makes his own verse debut with American Linden, sure to receive cognoscenti attention, especially in Verse's home bases (New England and New York). Zapruder's hip lyricism offers both the slippery comedy and a surprisingly grave, ultimately winning, commitment to real people, emotions, locales: "My lack of compassion astounds me," Zapruder explains, "and must not come to know itself"; another poem ends as the poet himself is admonished, "`Come back when you have something/ less riveting to say.'"
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780971031098
  • Publisher: Tupelo Press, Inc.
  • Publication date: 9/15/2010
  • Pages: 88
  • Product dimensions: 0.21 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 6.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Matthew Zapruder holds degrees from Amherst College, UC Berkeley, and the University of Massachusetts. He is the author of COME ON ALL YOU GHOSTS (Copper Canyon Press, 2010); THE PAJAMAIST (Copper Canyon Press, 2006), which won the William Carlos Williams Award and was honored by Library Journal with a "Best Poetry Book of the Year" listing; and AMERICAN LINDEN (Tupelo Press, 2002). He lives in San Francisco and is an editor at Wave Books.
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Read an Excerpt

American Linden
By Matthew Zapruder Tupelo Press

Copyright © 2003 Matthew Zapruder
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9781932195057

Chapter One


Tea, tea, butter, the structure.
We were discussing the death
of iambic pentameter,
though we didn't know it.
She said with the notch
above her lips
I have a perfect ass
and I thought the thing about asses
is they're not perfect,
they have a kind of fatal flaw,
but I wasn't going to argue
with such a proud collection
of stumbling convergences.
I wanted to say, can I stick
my eyes down your throat?
but what emerged
was those eyebrows,
are they for rent?
How are they tragic?
By announcing a mountainlessness
that aches for its climbers,
a brow that needs
no announcing,
lips that shift
as mapped by insomnia,
one hidden rippling
bone that can never.
A patio floated by.
About us a Cambridge was revolving.
Somewhere marriage was discussing
a couple flattened
by the new gravity of summer,
but it wasn't us, we were refusing
to cross that most glorious
breed of slowness.
I vow I will touch you
always more distant stranger.


Often I have an idea and say it immediately.
If people praise me I wear the world
shyly on top of my head.
At times I'm compelled
like a fever to float
without any distinctions,
a sea of tincans, love letters and greed.
The world is good for my pleasure and consumption.
I admire it totally, it stands
like a mountain inside and outside me.
Some art may be good, some dishonest.
There's no pressing need for conscription or liberty,
though a carful of people rides down the highway
too fast, clouded in song.
My lack of compassion astounds me,
and must not come to know itself.
It's true, I've never done anything
quite like striking you across the face.
There is of course the question of fate,
and whether it can be angered.
Example: when not overpowered by grief
there are proper and improper ways to mourn.
In such cases my gestures are shadows
cast far from myself
by one who crawls through the library,
touching the books that she touched.
I have dream after dream and forget each one.


Terrible flowerbox
on my shoulders
unbuilt by the gold claws
logic and lightning,
speak the last word,
rewrite me. Dead bird
passing me like a friend,
dead bird frozen
in snow I was frozen
in happiness you're so beautiful.
With tiny golden claws you built
the painted book
of afternoon
afternoon stared into.
You said the world must have a border.
You renounced the borderless world.
You said the world
must have two claws,
one frozen in happiness,
one lit with gold laughter
past me gliding,
a bicycle under a friend.
A man coughs
the end of the world.
Therefore down alleys
that do not yet exist
I resolve to greet
each person more sadly.
To put music
back in a drawer.
To remove it
only when it needs me.
What kind of music
pins my sleep
with gold thread among the elms?
Blossoms die
in my hand as I prune them,
you can't win election,
you can't prosecute night
though we all heard it chuckling
idea of love.
Idea of love
in a white dress bewildered,
I'd prefer each friday
not be so sundown.
I'd prefer my memory
dizzy from dancing
for the memory
of dancing for soldiers.
Light and wind
put me down in this room.
Night has only one use for me.
Branches come closer,
bringing snow to my bedside.
The chairlift
how to remember mounts up
to a lake
knew in the stars.


As the wayward satellite believes its rescuers
will come with white and weightless hands,
and the rescuers turning and floating believe
in their tethers and all those uninspected latches,
as madness believes in the organizing principle,
and allows it to strap her down on the gurney,
and the tiny island believes the sound
of a harp will arrive on the wings of a gull,
as the olive believes it is filled with light,
and its oil will someday grace a god's tongue,
as my arms flail outwards and strike my forehead
in belief of a vestigial prayer process,
and I believe to allow them such historical pleasure
is hardly harmless from time to time,
as the transistor radio hears the woman
muttering and believes she requests
she be buried in the front yard with only her knitting
far from her husband the master of stratagems,
and weeping daughters once believed
their father had coated each grassblade with poison
and woke one morning to some twigs on the lawn
to believe they were dead starlings,
as the mountain believed it could stay hollow
long enough to return the tunnellers home,
and their wives believed in trying to believe
that rumble through clear skies was thunder,
I believe that is not what you wanted,
for you are only a guardian
geared to one particular moment
conjectured in no saintly book of apocrypha
when slowly at last the trucks will pull
into a warehouse shot through with shadows
and wherever I am I will see candles floating
on the ritual arms of two dark canals
and you will allow me to step I believe
into the mechanism
and tear off your wings


Throughout the era of the tiny blemish
to the left of her eyebrow
I wandered clumsy
as a high school in late afternoon,
locked around glowing
cylinders of dust,
construction paper logic,
echoes of correct answers suppressed.
Sometimes leaving
a room can snap
your heart like a limb,
and not because there's anything in it.
For them, my seascape
of dresses impervious
and young careless hiding
search for care under brims,
I revealed behind my lecture on refusal,
but never myself
believed myself saying
lips live best
among the slow drape of hair,
especially raven.
Time of winter
like correspondence delayed
I did not yet remember
how on the counter your hands would sleep
unessential as summer,
while overhead the churning
silver impossible
away and away from description
surveying our impasse
with one eye pretending
the other's not glass,
the car stolen and returned
unnoticed except for the jangle
of hey those aren't my glasses,
the pleasure
of the utterly faked confession,
or the intimate public
pleasure of glances
down the eyes of young mothers.
The eyes of young mothers
clutching a hairbrush.
So many times I hypothesized
you actually standing
before this painting
of blue time choosing
at last from wherever
into my foot.
And I'm glad to have it.
It was probably lonelier than me.
I swear I won't doctor you,
or make you better, or even good.
You can contact your friends
if you have them
in whatever manner,
maybe radiating.


I fumble downstairs like some old early riser
who has just dreamed of mowing the lawn with his cane.
One glass, some water and a tea bag
may be the forgotten alchemy of destruction.
The sea has withdrawn from the kitchen,
leaving one small whale which moans on the floor.
Spiders congregate on the dark wall, whispering
Have you heard about the insomniac dyslexic atheist?
The children's book who went to the marriage counselor?
The olive stuck on a desert island with a fan?
Alas, what is forbidden?
The sun rose while I was pouring.
I must have hit the switch.
Tomorrow, the dew will be a little colder,
and a few more leaves will creep through the mail slot.
The sun is a good conversationalist, if a little relentless,
and inclined to peer into my desk drawer, but it knows
the appropriate moment to go feed the morning glories.
I've laid out a compass, the porcelain boxes,
some colored chalk, a few photographs
of diving birds, and an atlas of mineral behavior.
Look, here's the future of Asia Major.
There are several rivers in need of a washing.
See what happens
after forty years of moonlight?
No eclipses until my thumb stops this talking.
After zero and equal there were thoughts.
All I had to do was create the world.
How I wish I didn't know what endless preparations
go on in that houseboat
beached at the end of the cul-de-sac.
For a long time I have felt a cloud in my pocket,
where I keep a promise, but I don't know why.


Morning plays a fine false tune in the crook of the tree.
I get up to dance, I sit down.
Each leaf is a possible ending.
Great events are taking place in the house across the street.
Four actors rehearse a play I have written and left on their threshold.
Their shadows move from window to window, disappearing and reappearing.
I could shrink the world into a clouded watchglass, this is proven.

No matter which way I swivel my head,
there is light on the edge of the teacup.

I turn back
from a great abyss.


A little portrait of me lies in the flowerbed,
making allusions, watching her comb her hair.
She sings into the shattered mirror:
"But you will last as long as the rose,
as long as the glass, glass tulips ..."
A can opener smiles on the night table.

I remember she loved and feared the dark.
Whenever the horses broke loose
her heart trembled under my hand like a bat.
We'd huddle all night in bed, counting.
The horses filled us with the ineffable grandeur
of their silent pounding, or something like that.
Mostly I liked not knowing what to expect.

The sun looms angrily, high above, stranded.
She walks, or rather meanders towards my portrait chanting
"Phillip, your green thumbs, the envy of All Wales."
Each wisp of her hair grows larger, they wave and shine
like snakes you can see through. How strange. She bends
over me, blocking the sun.


The conductor shuffles his scores in the din
as the orchestra conjures and tunes.

A boatman stares down at the water. Reflected,
a few gulls cry and draw the name of a place.

Chin to her chest, she wears a slumped necklace of bone.
The rest of space hangs a blue cape on her shoulders.

She rocks, half in the boat and half in her chair.
The orchestra clatters to one long roaring tone,

dying out into the cavern which stands
silent before the great action.

We rise and applaud, madly, the musicians puzzled,
ready to begin their obliteration.

The auditorium is quiet again, except for wind
opening a glass door onto the balcony.

Two pigeons keep their eggs hidden in a pile of droppings and feathers.
Dark hills in the background rise up over the black railing.

Who will hear moss creep down the slope
over the child's knucklebone lost in the grass?

The music, as quiet as it was, could only begin to fill up the hall
with the name we forget, already perfect beyond recognition.


The day is wearing a white lab coat.
It is experimenting on us,
which is funny until you stop thinking about it.
Today I am going to drive my car
up into the mountain of distraction
where with my cat, Helix, I shall picnic.
Towards him I feel only slightly parental.
Only enough to feed him tiny
slivers of moral instruction
which he devours daintily without blinking.
Helix doesn't have a twin.
He is grey, and his left front paw
hurts him, though he has never spoken of it.
Past the blankness of his irises
is a lake of sadness, from which he was torn
many months ago, his mouth and tongue
frozen in a repetition of searching.
His mother was a sofa, a whole
neighborhood of comfort, support,
understanding, doors left unlocked,
kick the can, let's leave the neighbors
with the kids without even
formally informing them and drive
a car of distraction along the vanished town
of Calico up into the mountains
where we shall picnic. His father
was a cloud, as are all the fathers
of cats. Try to find one. The trail leads
through wet grasses down
to the culvert where I taught
myself to smoke like a wet idea
from which I have just withdrawn,
leaving only the tenderness.
There was a girl named Holly.
We knew each other in the park.
We were pineys.


Excerpted from American Linden by Matthew Zapruder Copyright © 2003 by Matthew Zapruder. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Sweet Jesus 1
The Artist Must Incline His Head Just So 3
I Go Out to Meet Them 4
Whoever You Are 6
Sometimes Leaving 8
Blueprint 10
Before the Poem 11
Mind the Gap 12
View Onto the Balcony 13
Summer Camp 14
Park Slope 16
A Colossal Historical Blunder 18
September First 19
The Invisible City of Kitezh 21
The Path to the Orchard 22
Coda 23
The Book of Leaves 27
Cupola 30
Lean To 32
The Blue Lights 34
Tiburon 35
The Book of Paintings 36
New Haven 38
A Return 39
School Street 40
What Exists 43
A History of Petersburg 44
The House Across the Water 45
Not Me, Not You 46
Spring 49
Kick the Can 50
Arcadia 52
The Book of Oakland 53
Friends of Olivia 54
These Windows 57
Warning: Sad 58
The Book of the Old World 60
Do You Remember 61
Scarecrow 62
The Book of Waves 63
American Linden 65
The Book of the Broken Window 66
I Am a Sculptor 69
Ten Questions for Mona 71
I Have a Friend 73
So Be It 75
The Book of the Wrong Kind of Blue 77
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