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The Elegant Trogon and Poem for Robert Desnos

“I have/a secret pigeon in my heart./I keep it in a cage composed of object lessons and feed it/moral law.”

The Elegant Trogon

The South American trogon

is a gentle bird with weak legs

and soft colorful feathers.

It nibbles holes in trees

to make its nest. One flew

into my sleep and dropped

a golden tooth into my supinated

hand, then perched croaking

on a twig. It appeared

to be wearing spectacles.

Special effects, said an Eastern

Elusive Spadefoot Toad,

digging calmly as a scholar

of the Era of Good Feelings.

I felt a rictus travel across

my face, arriving at my mouth

in the form of an effortful

grimace. Dawn was carrying

something quantum in its oral

cavity and purring. I have

a secret pigeon in my heart.

I keep it in a cage composed

of object lessons and feed it

moral law. Every morning

it stirs and wakes me with

its lonely cooing and together

we wander into a sort of

guilty state of already feeling

as if we are at loggerheads

with the turtle of doing what

we ought to do. Now I am

fully awake. Still I feel that golden

lodestone burning in my palm.

Which I plan on keeping locked.


Poem for Robert Desnos

you were born in a butcher shop

owned by your father an addled ghost

who might have also run a tavern

the tablets are unclear

the fly buzzed unhappily in the doorway

it wanted to tell the world

and the sun delayed setting for an hour

across the ocean it was Independence Day

and a new millennium saw the buffalo

dying out on the endless plains

no one in the Marais

knew the world had changed

everyone talked softly

about yesterday and poured

too much emerald liquid into glasses

beveled and reflecting the sea

though it was thousands of years away

caressing the stone docks of Marseilles

and the flagstones bloomed

much further east the Black Madonna

with her miraculous powers

waited patiently for your arrival

the black geometry of her face

the gorgeous abstraction

of her scars as she holds the child

holding a box of unknown reliquaries

with her actual tears in the dark green forest

she saved Bright Mountain

now she cries only when she is alone

so no one but you can gather the liquid

full of tiny silver clouds

for now in the butcher shop

the baby sleeps and outside

under sinister chimneys wraiths

of knowledge walk toward the door.


Matthew Zapruder is the author of I Love Hearing Your Dreams, forthcoming from Scribner in September, as well as Why Poetry, which was released with Ecco/Harper Collins, and Story of a Poem, which was released with Unnamed. He is editor at large at Wave Books, where he edits contemporary poetry, prose, and translations. He teaches in the MFA in creative writing at Saint Mary’s College of California. 

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