A Poem by Matthew Zapruder

When I Was Fifteen


When I was fifteen
I suddenly knew
I would never
understand geometry.
Who was my teacher?
That name is gone.
I only remember
the gray feeling
in a classroom
filled with vast
theoretical distances.
I can still see
odd shapes
drawn on the board,
and those inscrutable
formulas everyone
was busily into
their notebooks scribbling.
I looked down
at the Velcro
straps of my entirely
white shoes and knew
inside me things
had long ago gone
terribly wrong
and would continue
to be. When
the field hockey star
broke her knee,
I wrote a story
for the school paper
then brought her
the history notes
in the snow.
She stood
in the threshold,
a whole firelit life
of mysterious
familial warmth
glowing behind her,
and took them
from my hands
like the blameless
queen of elegant
violence she was.
Walking home
encased in immense
amounts of down
I listened to
the analog ghost
in the machine
pour from the cassette
I had drawn
flowers on.
Into my ears
it sang everything
they told you
makes you believe
you are trapped
in a snow globe
forgotten in a dark
closet where exhausted
shadows argue
what is sorrow
cannot become joy,
but I am here
from the future
to tell you
you are not,
all you must do
is stay asleep
a few more years
great traveler waiting to go.


Matthew Zapruder is editor at large for Wave Books and teaches at Saint Mary’s College of California. “When I Was Fifteen” appears in print in Fifteen, an anthology of writing to celebrate 826 Valencia’s 15th anniversary.

The Poetry Section is edited by Mark Bibbins.