Revisiting 21.1: Matthew Zapruder’s “Penultimate Poem”


In Matthew Zapruder’s “Penultimate Poem” from Fourteen Hills 21.1 fragile intimacy

develops through final moments. To enter the poem, the speaker asks “us to walk one more time very slowly” to “see the ghost ship / sail off the lake and into the clouds.” Rather than invoking a universal voice from the “us” of the poem, Zapruder frames the subject with a desire for shared experience. As edges shift slightly from one line to the next, the words appear to linger on fenceless cliffs. Zapruder’s unpunctuated lines coexist with delicate images, all of which seem to be at risk in movement. At the core of the poem, transparent materials equalize small and large objects. Large windows become “glass cases the figurines / inside them so carefully painted.” Vulnerability spreads through the objects of the speaker’s wistful thoughts. The charm and melancholy of the poem exists in detailed descriptions with the backdrop of “the miraculous / unremarkable sky over the harbor.” Using ships as bookends for the penultimate journey, the poem continually moves through delicate states of being.

To read the entirety of "Penultimate Poem," you may purchase Fourteen Hills 21.1 from Small Press Distribution.

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