Back to Issue Forty-Five

Pregnant Girl Creek



There’s a girl leaned back against the chains
of the bridge, clutching her belly

through the thin rayon of her dress like it’s
covering the underside of the sun

while her friend tells her to tilt her head
right or left for the photos

she’s taking with a phone, each turn
making a stripe of pink

bangs flash across the girl’s face like the fan
of a bird’s fragile wing,

and what I mean is that she doesn’t
have much money, and also

that I know her, which isn’t possible since
the girl I know is gone,

her children born and half-grown already, nothing
of her own shimmering

left in this light-sieved moment but the memory
of her sweetness, which was true

as this creek is cold, even at the end when she’d lost
her kids and was ashamed

of herself, and I think about how careless people
like to say that it doesn’t cost

anything to be kind, but that some of us know
the truth, which is that the price

of cracking yourself open to the world long enough
to feel love for a stranger,

which is the same as feeling love for yourself,
is dear, so that it hurts

more than a little to lean in as I pass by and spend it all
on this girl, telling her

how pretty those pictures are going to be.

Keetje Kuipers is the author of three collections of poetry: Beautiful in the Mouth, winner of the A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize; The Keys to the Jail; and 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 Narrative, Virginia Quarterly Review, The New York Times Magazine, American Poetry Review, Orion, The Believer, and over a hundred other magazines. Keetje has been a Stegner Fellow, a 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 a board member at the National Book Critics Circle.

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