by Keith Kopka
are as loyal as any secondary household pet:
a gerbil or fish whose hunger response
we like to think of as “human”
when our loneliness projects
itself onto their captivity. I’m nodding at Judy
across her kitchen table
crowded with randoms here to score.
She’s cutting a few lines for me
between details of how small her husband’s dick is,
and how terrible the sex has gotten.
He’s in earshot, but he doesn’t
seem to notice because
he’s getting his back cracked by T.,
their supplier who, Judy tells me, decided to move in
last week. In a year, Judy ends up
incarcerated for running over a cyclist
when heading home from Buddy’s Oyster Bar.
But right now she’s as in control
as any substitute teacher, yelling at T.
to put her husband down
because if they keep rocking up
on each other’s backs
one of them is going to kick out the light,
and no one will be able to see
what they’re putting up their noses.
Just for a moment, our small schoolyard
goes quiet. Then T. slinks away
to his bedroom, and Judy’s husband asks
for a cigarette. Judy says she thinks she’s hurt
T’s feelings, and she’s going upstairs
to, quote, change into her pajamas. I have a beer
with her husband, give what cigarettes
I’ve got to him, and a few other strangers
who call me friend no matter how many times
I offer them my name. An hour into this
poor man’s Abbot and Costello routine
I decide to leave, but before I’m out the door
Judy stops me in the foyer
wearing only her panties, slips
a gram bag into my pocket,
she says is just for me. Says that she’s always liked me
more than her other junkie friends,
and that we should go out and do this
bag in my car together. I waffle;
go back into the kitchen for a while and pretend
to look for the lighter that’s still in my pocket.
Judy’s not there when I leave again. I worry
I’ve hurt her feelings, but only for a moment,
then I drive home to sleep when my body decides
I’m allowed to. In the morning, I wake
to a pounding at my door, and there’s Judy,
furious, and still mostly naked. She says
she passed out waiting for me, slept the night on the floor
of my back seat. Oh my god, she says,
how could you let me do this? You know everyone’s going to be worried
sick about me. What will they do for breakfast?
About the Author:
Keith Kopka is a native of Rhode Island, but he currently lives and writes in Florida where he is the Managing Director of the Creative Writing Program at Florida State University. His poems have appeared, or are forthcoming, in Mid American Review, Ninth Letter, Normal School, Southern Indiana Review, The Greensboro Review, The New Orleans Review, and others. He won the 2015 New Ohio Review Prize, selected by Robert Pinsky. He is also the Poetry Editor of The Southeast Review and has been a recipient of a Chautauqua Arts fellowship, and a Vermont Studio Center Fellowship for poetry.