Once, I ran a whole length of forest
lifting anything I could manage: bees’ nests,
flowers, birds’ eggs. I even got
some rocks and used them to kill
a few, minor animals, so I could lift them,
too. I wish you could’ve seen it:
a hundred toads balanced
in the mouths of a hundred squirrels.
The squirrels then laid over a whole surfeit
of skunks that I, all by myself, managed
to position, just so, on the backs of no fewer
than ten fisher cats.
All of it stacked and lifted
so high above my head, you would’ve been
impressed with how well I lifted. I used
my knees, never my back.
By then I’d circled all the way around
to my father’s house again. Same house I grew up in.
So I ring the doorbell, and when my father answers
I start to name what I’ve lifted.
But before I get too far, he narrows
an eye at me, then he spins me around, marches
me back to the woods. My father watches
as I put each bird, stick, bug, and fox, dead or alive,
back where they’d come from. It took what felt like years
to re-stage each item.
That’s how you end up hurt,
lifting with your back. My father taught me that,
and his father taught him.
Keith Kopka reads “Interrogation”
Keith Kopka is a former touring punk musician and the author of Count Four (University of Tampa Press, 2020), which won the 2019 Tampa Review Prize for Poetry. His poems and criticism have appeared in Best New Poets, Mid-American Review, New Ohio Review, and The International Journal of The Book, and many others. He is also the author of the critical text Asking a Shadow to Dance: An Introduction to the Practice of Poetry (GRL, 2018) and a recipient of the International Award for Excellence from the Books, Publishing, & Libraries Research Network. Kopka is currently a Senior Editor at Narrative Magazine, the Director of Operations for Writers Resist, and an Assistant Professor at Holy Family University in Philadelphia.