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February 20 , 2009

The Keys to the Jail


The Keys to the Jail asks the question of who is to blame for all we’ve lost, calling us to reexamine the harsh words of failed love, the aging of a once-beautiful body, even our own voracious desires. Keetje Kuipers is a poet of daring leaps and unflinching observations, whose richly textured lyrics travel from Montana’s great wildernesses to the ocean-fogged streets of San Francisco as they search out the heart that’s lost its way.

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Dolores Park

In the flattening California dusk,
women gather under palms with their bags

of bottles and cans. The grass is feathered
with the trash of the day, paper napkins

blowing across the legs of those who still
drown on a patchwork of blankets. Shirtless

in the phosphorescent gloom of streetlamps,
they lie suspended. This is my one good

life-watching the exchange of embraces,
counting the faces assembled outside

the ice-cream shop, sweet tinge of urine by
the bridge above the tracks, broken bike lock

of the gay couple’s hands, desperate clapping
of dark pigeons-who will take it from me?

A former Wallace Stegner Fellow in Poetry, Keetje Kuipers's debut collection, Beautiful in the Mouth, won the A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize. She has been the Margery Davis Boyden Wilderness Writing Resident, and is currently an assistant professor at Auburn University.

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