Poems: Keith Kopka

Illo for Keith Kopka's poems.


Since I’ve spent
this hour perfecting
a controlled arc
of spray paint to enclose
the giant red “A”
scrawled across
the clapboard siding
of someone’s vacation
home, I decide it’s
a good idea to run
when the police
appear in response
to the rattan patio
bonfire I’ve started
with a blowtorch
of hairspray
and lighter stolen
from my mother’s
purse; a woman
who worked
the late shift, who
wasn’t really sure
where her kid was
most of the time.
And even when I fold
my body, creep vine
flat along the banks
of the Bristol River,
I am caught, zip-tied
and foot stuffed
into the cubby-holed
backseat of an idling
Crown Vic, my wrists
shredding more with
each strained shout
through the window
at the chubby rookie
left behind to watch me;
even then I knew
he was the boy picked last,
yet secretly too sure
of himself in a body
growing faster than
the small world
it governs. He was
like the dinosaur
sponges I bought
at the market to ripen
in kitchen bowls,
until they capped
their potential by
sucking every
container dry. I swear,
I can see that water
on his cheeks
as he pulls me from
the car by my neck,
getting bigger,
and taller, and thicker
in front of me, my
compliant frame
absorbing each swing
of his night stick,
until finally I, too,
start to take shape.

I’ll Tell You the Same Thing I Told the Other Detective

I work for Number One Boss
who buries cars for insurance
money. He throws this
junkyard party, and the Federal
Hill boys show up in convertibles,
sipping anisette. While I bartend,
Number One Boss sits my girlfriend
on his lap. This is my first job.
I’m saving for a car like dad did,
running numbers to woo my mom.
Ferraris, keys in their ignition,
are illegally parked down J Street.
Planting fake tickets and towing
is the bedrock of our business.
Suckers pay to get their cars back,
or we vanish them, split
what’s collected. By agreement,
their Ferraris remain untouched.
This is Number One Boss’s
number one rule. But dad taught
me how to open a car with
a tennis ball, and the Hill boys bet
I can’t. So I pop open one of the big
cicada wing doors on an Enzo,
and Number One Boss cheers louder
than anyone. My girlfriend
giggles at his impression of me
the time I got arrested: Please stop,
you re hurt ing me puh lease
, he whines,
pinching out each syllable on her hips.
Keith Kopka is a native of Rhode Island, but he currently lives and writes in Florida where he is the Managing Director of the Creative Writing Program at Florida State University. His poetry and criticism have appeared in Mid-American Review, New Ohio Review, The International Journal of the Book, and elsewhere. He is also an Assistant Editor at Narrative Magazine, a recipient of a Chautauqua Arts Fellowship, and a Vermont Studio Center Fellow.

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