David Keplinger


MY FATHER CLIMBED his ladder to the roof, his tool belt hanging at the waist. Up there I’d tossed a little toy I loved; I threw it with my might; I swung it on its purple string, let go. The toy a soldier that wouldn’t float down. It landed in the gutter and was stuck. Why save my aerialist? My father knelt at the gutter edge, and almost lost his footing: this thing of little value in his hand.


WALKING BY MYSELF through cities I think of knives, the symbol of marriages and doom. Or I recall the lucky spoons my auntie loved and hung on a rack by the table. She did not love her knives. They lay in the drawer. My auntie ripped her bread by hand. She said a knife is almost useless, being one thing only.


Aimee Jackson
Stations I

oil on canvas; (9) 9" x 8"; 1993
see more work by Aimee Jackson

NIXON PEED ALL OVER Mao Tse Tung’s best toilet bowl in China. A servant caught him as he tried to clean the blunder up. The Chinese snickered collectively when he boarded the plane to leave: How did they find out? He asked himself. The pee became a national joke. It was so yellow, they said, Americans must live on corn alone.


I’VE BEEN TO THIS STATION, but will never go back. A beautiful woman in a green gown was clasping a shoe to her ankle. The stiletto on that shoe the length of my pointer finger. Her other foot was bare. The woman stood up, threw her purse on the crook of her shoulder. Tik-tump, Tik-tump, and away she went. The train pulled out. Tell me, what shall I do with that image? The woman’s still there. She walks on the stilt of my finger.


WE STRIPPED and swam to the Green Island. It was earliest summer. There is such a thing as midnight sun. Asa let me touch her from behind, her body so much older than mine. Under water she yelled something – what? I don’t remember. What we call “sorrow” is merely failing memory.



David Keplinger's recent books include The Prayers of Others (2006), which won the 2007 Colorado Book Award, The Clearing (2005), and World Cut Out with Crooked Scissors: The Selected Poetry of Carsten Rene Nielsen (translations, 2007). He has won the T.S. Eliot Prize and fellowships from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts. Keplinger teaches at American University.


Published in Volume 9, Number 2, Spring 2008.