Matthew Lippman


Matthew Lippman is the author of three poetry collections, American Chew (Burnisde Review Press, 2013), which won the Burnside Review Book Prize, Monkey Bars (Typecast Publishing. and The New Year of Yellow (Sarabande Books), winner of the Kathryn A. Morton Poetry Prize.

American Typewriter

I am an American typewriter.
I have a black ribbon and a red ribbon.
I have a split ribbon of black and white.
My keys are chipped and plastic, metal and fused.
The Shakers made the table where I sit.
I love female fingertips touching my T,
the fist slam of a child who thinks she has something to type
but has no idea what to write.
If I could speak I would say, I am not from America,
I am from Poland where all death is a dream.
I was made in a factory in Illinois and my name is Harold. I drink Budweiser
and wish to be electric
so I can move faster, be smarter,
self-correcting and have a mind of my own
with a white picket fence of words that allude to Jesus, God,
and the three martini lunch.
Right now, my “u” sticks and the rent is paid.
But, I will write the great American novel.
It begins, Love plus money equals a fantastic home on the shores of Lake Michigan.
Someone will make it into a movie starring Ben Affleck and Bette Davis.
Oh, the lips. The ass. The boobs.
If I were a German typewriter it wouldn’t be a problem
although it’s always a problem
when typewriters are German.
I am a black American typewriter.
A vintage Underwood. A Remington Deluxe, Olivetti with the springs,
a Smith Corona with the quick arm.
I sit on my table
and when you come with your vision of the desert,
your heartbreak so worn,
your letter to the editor,
I will be quiet and then
I will smash your words into the white page.

I wrote ‘American Typewriter’ late one night in the living room of my house. I remember the light from the small Russian Orthodox Church across the street and I remember how quiet it was. I wanted to write but had nothing to write about. Perhaps it was thinking about the fact that I had nothing to write about that led me to remember the typewriter I had in college, a Smith Corona. Personal computers had not hit the landscape yet and I loved my typewriter. I was thinking about loving it when the line, 'I am an American Typewriter,' popped into my head. Then, I was off.