Keetje Kuipers

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Keetje Kuipers

Walking Lessons

I still don’t know how we found ourselves there on the sidewalk,
your children drawing hearts and stars on the pavement
while slyly taking in my demonstration of grace, how to put
one foot in front of the other with smooth, careless-seeming
precision. I’d once been asked at an audition to display
a hidden talent, and mine had been walking, or gliding, really,
like a bird who instinctively knows to find the warm
currents of air that will push it upwards, or one of those flying
squirrels whose entire body becomes an easy sail for capturing
the world’s wind. That’s what I was trying to show you—
how to move like it didn’t hurt to perform the body you’d been
given. So in front of your house I walked a clean line, my arms
loose at my sides, my head up and back, oddly conscious
of the workings of my knees, but confident in that working.
Then I turned and looked back at you with a smile. Walk
toward me
, I said. For critique. For a lesson. I won’t describe
my body any more than that. And I won’t describe yours either—
the endless ways it had so often gone unloved. It doesn’t matter
what I thought I was doing that spring evening in the town
I haven’t seen you in for years, only that I hurt you
trying to teach an act of artifice so encoded in my flesh
I didn’t realize I’d been practicing it all my life, putting one foot
so carelessly—so thoughtlessly—right in front of the other.

Keetje Kuipers reads “Walking Lessons”


Keetje Kuipers’ most recent collection of poetry is All Its Charms, which includes poems honored by publication in both The Pushcart Prize and Best American Poetry anthologies. Her poetry and prose have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, American Poetry Review, and over a hundred other magazines. Keetje has been a Stegner Fellow, Bread Loaf Fellow, and the Margery Davis Boyden Wilderness Writing Resident. She lives with her wife and children in Montana, where she is Editor of Poetry Northwest and serves on the board of the National Book Critics Circle.