WINNER OF THE 2019 UNT RILKE PRIZE
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 landscapea thwarted customer at the door of a shuttered bookstore in Crete, a chance encounter with a might-have-been lover in Copenhagento 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 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
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.
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
My Father’s Hours
City of Youth
Broadcast for the Last Snowfall
“Every Angel Is Terrifying”
Mynah Bird, Hobe Sound
“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
Q: In What City Does Your Mother Live
The Liquid R
Tennis with the Dead
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
A Blue Dish
A Pair of Glasses
A Lost Cup
A Box of Screws
A Doll’s Head
Glad to Be Unhappy
The Church inside the Church Where Weil First Knelt to Pray
A Poetry Shop in Heraklion
A Stick Figure
Letter from Rock Creek
Van Gogh’s Olive Grove: Orange Sky