Lamp Day by Matthew Zapruder

lampflowersOur friend Michael recently organized a poetry night here in Nyack. About 25 of us (or more?) got together and ate delicious soups, made by Michael from the Staff Meals from Chanterelle cookbook. Then, we all shared a poem that we love. I appreciate when Michael hosts these events because it forces me to delve into a genre I don’t read nearly enough, but very much enjoy.

When I was in graduate school at Sarah Lawrence College, I was lucky to be surrounded by many great poets, such as Curtis Bauer, Patrick Rosal and Ross Gay, among others. I had a blast hearing them read their work aloud. And it was just generally inspiring to be around so many people who not only revered the written word, but were dedicating their lives to it.

While poking around last week, I found several excellent poems and discovered a handful of new poets. The piece I latched onto and proceeded to read approximately 4,000 times before I even got to poetry night was “Lamp Day” by Matthew Zapruder.  I contacted him to see if I could re-print it here and he kindly obliged. It is from his third collection, Come on All You Ghosts, 2010:

Lamp Day

by Matthew Zapruder

All day I’ve felt today is a holiday,
but the calendar is blank.
Maybe its Lamp Day. There is
one very small one I love
so much I have taken it everywhere,
even with its loose switch.
On its porcelain shade are painted
tiny red flowers, cleary
by someone whose careful
hand we will never know.
Because its Lamp Day I’m trying
to remember where I got it,
maybe it was waiting for me
in the house on Summer Street
I moved into almost exactly
17 years ago.  I think
without thinking I just picked it
up from the floor and put it
on my desk and plugged
it into the socket and already
I was working.  So much
since that moment has happened.
On Lamp Day we try
not dreamily but systematically
to remember it all.  I do it
by thinking about the hidden
reasons I love something
small. When you take
a series of careful steps
to solve a complex problem,
mathematicians call it an algorithm.
It’s like moving through
a series of rooms, each with
two doors, you must choose one,
you can’t go back. I begin
by sitting on a bench in the sun
on September 21st thinking
all the walks I have taken
in all the cities I have chosen
to live in or visit with loved ones
and alone make a sunlit
and rainy map no one
will ever be able to hold.
Is this important?  Yes and no.
Now I am staring
at clean metal girders.
People keep walking past
a hotel, its bright
glass calmly reflecting
everything bad and good.
Blue boots.  Bright glass.
Guests in this moment. A child
through the puddles steps
exuberant, clearly feeling the power.
I am plugged in.  I am calm.
Lamp Day has a name.
Just like this cup
that has somehow drifted
into my life, and towards which
sometimes for its own reasons
my hand drifts in turn.
Upon it is written the single
word Omaha.


I admire the details in this poem and the reverence for objects (…hidden/ reasons I love something/small…). I believe that our possessions do hold meaning and that they are talismans of our pasts. We all have at least a few items that have traveled with us from one place to another and evoke a certain set of memories. (…and alone make a sunlit/ and rainy map no one/ will ever be able to hold…)

If we were to lose any of our things it wouldn’t be the end of the world (Important? Yes and no) but why not take a moment (or a whole day) to appreciate them and what they represent?

Thank you to Matthew Zapruder for plugging in his lamp and illuminating such beautiful images. If you would like to read some of his most recent work, which is also wonderful, check out The Odyssey on Floating Wolf Quarterly.

Have you discovered any good new poems lately?

10 replies

  1. I love that this is a poem about remembering, but it isn’t moody and depressing. The warm fuzzy feeling is so much more engaging to me!

    Thanks for sharing this today – I enjoyed it too. 🙂

    • I know! – the specificity is great and I can really relate to it. When people come to our house, I have a weird habit of telling people where and when I got everything I own and how much I paid…

  2. In honor of his source of light
    And Sir Zapruder’s poesy bright
    Today’s a day I’ll spend iambically
    And speak with meters pentagonally

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