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About this Poem 

“In 2011 the artist Mel Chin used every illustration extracted from a 1953-56 set of Funk & Wagnall’s Universal Standard Encyclopedia to make 524 collages arranged in twenty-five floor to ceiling columns. These collages are pretty extraordinary. Via the poet Nick Flynn, Mel sent me Volume 12 (which included the entry for Idaho), along with a digital copy of all the collages made from that volume, and asked me to write a poem. I always love getting a task, especially such a strange and interesting one. I gratefully carried around that marvelous volume all summer. Finally I wrote this poem, which will appear in a forthcoming book about the project from Yale University Press later this year.”

—Matthew Zapruder

Idaho

All summer
it was on fire
I was as always
in California,
looking out my window,
discovering nothing,
then flying back
east far
above those forests
filled with black
smoke to feel
again that way
I will keep
failing to name.
O the same mistakes
O the mythical
different results.
It’s true one day
I walked a ridge
saw a hawk
read three letters
by Keats, bought
some postcards
I will never send,
and in a blue
scrawl made
a list then fell
asleep holding
volume twelve
of the old
encyclopedia
some stranger
sent to fill
me with pictures
and information
about that land
where no president
has ever been born.
I woke wanting
so much to go
inside the mountain
they call
The Cabinet
to find
a few bats
and the daughter
of the chambers
drawing ibex
on the walls
so I can ask
her how soon
and in what manner
we will join them.

Copyright @ 2014 by Matthew Zapruder. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-a-Day on May 23, 2014.

Copyright @ 2014 by Matthew Zapruder. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-a-Day on May 23, 2014.

Matthew Zapruder

Matthew Zapruder

Matthew Zapruder is the author of several books of poetry, including Come On All You Ghosts (Copper Canyon Press, 2010).

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