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
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.

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