Matthew Zapruder
Bad Bear

if you see one

you can say

bad bear

right to its face

even if you’re not sure,

maybe it’s good

and has discretion

in relation

to the delicious

treasury of human

garbage or even

the eternal

work of bees,

who knows

but it’s ok

on the path

with your thunder voice


to condemn it,

lore says that

will make it leave

so you can go

tell your story

in the tent

and again at the table

laughing without asking

what violence

brought you there,

you and all

that food

from everywhere,

those flowers

you eat

and do not wonder

who told you

it’s ok to lie

even to the rich

or to save a life

even your own,

in the middle of night

in the cave

you will hear

the eternal question

even darker

than what surrounds

was I born this way

or was it circumstance

that condemned me,

silence answers

you were born

to be condemned


but in poems,

for a while you hang

dead leaves

on the night tree

then they fall away

and all that is left

is this honey

you stole from the world






Found In Volume 52, No. 02
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Matthew Zapruder
About the Author

Matthew Zapruder is the author of five collections of poetry, most recently Father’s Day (Copper Canyon, 2019), as well as two books of prose: Why Poetry (Ecco, 2017) and Story of a Poem (Unnamed, 2023). He is editor at large at Wave Books, where he edits contemporary poetry, prose, and translations. From 2016-2017 he held the annually rotating position of Editor of the Poetry Column for the New York Times Magazine, and was the Editor of Best American Poetry 2022. He teaches in the MFA in Creative Writing at Saint Mary’s College of California.