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What Can Poetry Do

In Africa people are angry.

They are climbing embassy walls

and burning whatever is there.

Each time I click on some words

and read what we call news

I feel certain some people

while I was reading have died.

I know I am here merely reading.

I just sit in my room and worry.

As always I can do nothing.

So I close all the portals and go

deep in my mind to discover

something about Tunisia.

Tunisia of desert silence

broken by occasional battles

where a man set himself on fire

then revolution then elections.

Tunisia whose cosmopolitan

capital city Carthage

the Romans completely destroyed.

Tunisia where they filmed

the familiar home planet scenes

of the space movie we all stood in line

a million years ago to see.

I don’t know anything else.

Now I remember something

I once read about the forests

people are carefully growing

far from the capital city.

The trees are eating the poison

probably much too slowly.

But still they take the particles

and even if we don’t deserve it

our air is a little clearer.

It’s like the painting I saw

of a witch in the forest

her hair in a black column rising

like smoke from a burning structure.

She was dragging three or four ropes

the color of umbilical blood.

She was guarded by her wolf familiar.

At first she terrified me.

Then I saw she was causing

certain spells to protect

far away new mothers

whose children must in the middle

of great violence be born.

The men surround the embassy.

It will never be clear who sent them.

For a moment I feel ashamed.

I breathe the clear terrible air.

from Sun BearFind it in the library

Copyright © 2014 Matthew Zapruder
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.

Published in Matthew Zapruder Poems

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this (publication, website, exhibit, etc.) do not necessarily represent those of the Idaho Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.