Another City: Poems

Another City: Poems

by David Keplinger


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How does it feel to experience another city? To stand beneath tall buildings, among the countless faces of a crowd? To attempt to be heard above the din?

The poems of Another City travel inward and outward at once: into moments of self-reproach and grace, and to those of disassociation and belonging. From experiences defined by an urban landscape—a thwarted customer at the door of a shuttered bookstore in Crete, a chance encounter with a might-have-been lover in Copenhagen—to the streets themselves, where “an alley was a comma in the agony’s grammar,” in David Keplinger’s hands startling images collide and mingle like bodies on a busy thoroughfare.

Yet Another City deftly spans not only the physical space of global cities, but more intangible and intimate distances: between birth and death, father and son, past and present, metaphor and reality. In these poems, our entry into the world is when “the wound, called loneliness, / opens,” and our voyage out of it is through a foreign but not entirely unfamiliar constellations of cities: Cherbourg, Manila, Port-au-Prince.

A moving, haunting atlas to worlds both interior and exterior.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781571314864
Publisher: Milkweed Editions
Publication date: 03/13/2018
Pages: 112
Sales rank: 1,179,043
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.40(d)

About the Author

David Keplinger is the author of five volumes of poetry. He has won the T.S. Eliot Prize, the C.P. Cavafy Poetry Prize, the Erskine J. Poetry Prize, and the Colorado Book Award, as well as two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and grants from the DC, Danish, and Pennsylvania Councils on the Arts. He directs the MFA program in creative writing at American University in Washington, DC.

Read an Excerpt


In the padlocked trunk before they dropped him

in the river, Houdini was said to foresee

his mother’s death. Stuck in his box, at the end

• f a chain, he felt the death, its approach,

her worry growing smaller at the eyes as she

removed herself from herself, her body shrunken

to the size of a keyhole. I believe that grief

can travel distances like that. My mother’s

cough would wake me up at night, two hundred

miles away. That was a year ago, before she

got too small. She drowned in a cloud

• f bright white baby hair. She lay on the bed,

as if on a board, the last I saw her, still and calm.

Then truly as if a lever were pulled, she tipped

backwards, out of view.


The Liquid R

It was a language of white hills, red brick towns.

An alley was a comma in the agony’s grammar.

It was the old one tied against a chair, madness

swelling like a thought too big for her head,

and each death was a period. The mortician a stain,

a drop of ink in his black suit, before a page-white mausoleum.

It was a language of yeast soup, snowy hills, towns

called Beauty and Cold, where the names of things

had some corresponding order, beauty always going

cold, always losing itself to something permanent.

There was carp at the fishmonger, butcher paper

where the meat was weighed. Time at the clockmaker’s shop.

There were syntactical surprises: the headmaster

turned janitor inside of a day, the ambassador

seen on the subway in tattered clothes, the president

dressed as prisoner, delivering his acceptance speech,

the secret police as tourists on their own beat.

But mostly it was a language one used when speaking

in a whisper, rolling the “R,” practicing the “R”

in your mouth until it dropped from the palette

to the tongue as from the pocket of God, and hung there

momentarily in its shiny majesty, a sound much older

than the language that spent it, that offered it from one mouth

to another.



En route to California, after crossing snowy Monarch Pass, I’d pull into a bar on Highway 50 called the Bear Claw. At his table my dead father sat in the green sleeveless jacket with orange on the inside. Or now and then the jacket was reversed, depending on whether he was hunting me or hiding.

Where have you been, I asked him, and he told me of the cities he had visited in death: Cherbourg, France, where there was a disappointing fistfight, and the streets of Manila, where he thought his murderer had been following him, but it was only himself as a young man, holding a pair of lost glasses in hand. In Port-au-Prince he had been a child living off crisp fish he ate in tiny bites, cooked over a barrel by the sea. He had been in my mother’s house, many times, unable to fix his contraptions as one by one they failed her.

My father was a man always crouched in a pose against embarrassment, which I inherited. So I understood. That’s why I never reached California, and I would turn around each time, risking my life all over again on Monarch Pass.


My Carnation

In the city I’m traveling to,

awnings billow up in wind and light.

Winter is early. We are surprised

we are surprised. The waiters

in their tiny jackets pull their jackets

close against the sudden cold.

In the city I’m traveling to, I arrive

• n the train, its only passenger.

A man in black clothes helps me down.

A constable is twirling his baton.

A servant bears my latched up trunk,

but ruefully, ruefully. He is gone.

A certain old woman is waiting to sell me

my carnation: to offer it with one hand,

to cover her teeth with the other.

Table of Contents


City of Birth

City of Birth



The Brahms




Citizen Thumb

Citizen Small

My Father’s Hours

Citizen Mouth

Citizen Eye

City of Youth

Broadcast for the Last Snowfall


“Every Angel Is Terrifying”

Mynah Bird, Hobe Sound



Calling Horses

“An Apartment in the City of Death”

City of Texts


Arrival of the Aleph

Three Feasts: Simone Weil

The Crow’s Progress

Night of the Death of Seeger

Lightest of Dogs, Rome

Her Sums

Q: In What City Does Your Mother Live

The Liquid R


Tennis with the Dead

The Sibilant


A Young Man’s Copybook: 1861–1864


X, & Axe

“Marie Curie’s Century-old Radioactive Notebook Still Requires Lead Box”

The Little Stairs of Z


City of Domes

My Carnation

An Ashtray

Attic Order


A Blue Dish

In Steel

My Town

A Pair of Glasses

A Lost Cup

A Sunfish

A Box of Screws

In Gold

A Doll’s Head

Glad to Be Unhappy

The Church inside the Church Where Weil First Knelt to Pray

In Marble

A Poetry Shop in Heraklion

A Stick Figure

Letter from Rock Creek

The Leatherback

Van Gogh’s Olive Grove: Orange Sky

Eating Outside

Empire, Discourse



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