Keith Dunlap

Astronomically Correct


What if there was no gravity,

if no body was drawn to another

by a constant invisible force,

if the distant galaxies already dead

were doomed to drift apart?

A man, so old each fragile step

experiments in finding the ground,

pulls behind him a little red cart

in which sits the type of ugly dog

that’s a mixture of angry breeds.

But this one is as happy as a dog can be,

happy to sniff this or that rancid smell

drifting on the August breeze,

knowing full well that this holy life

is its own mysterious key.

Paper Hearts


The heart cannot become the heart again,

but like a valentine can only signify,

a paper cut-out of a shadow pasted

into the album of our scurrying days.

You are laughing at me and not with me.

It’s all some horrible mistake,

as if the gods emerging from the clouds,

or from the mists or cloudy mists or seas,

first handle all my rash decisions for me,

but then trudge homeward in the end,

taking with them their ambiguous signs—

the smoking innards, the jay that passes on the right.

Their watchful absence leaves us alone to fend

for ourselves, our disenchantments, and our lies,

counting the minutes until the next installment

of our favorite show: The Human Game,

in which each contestant gets to blame the other

for things that didn’t happen as intended,

and each one gets a prize in consolation:

the daughter of a priest, enduring shame,

a wooden decoy duck that has been passed

from generation to generation untouched.

All of this is what now counts as luck,

the distant clanging of a bell,

just as I happened to look up and see your face,

your features scrambling in confusion,

as if you could no longer tell,

what it was you were hoping I might say.

Keith Dunlap is a former co-editor of The Columbia Review and former co-editor of Cutbank, having received his M.F.A. from the University of Montana. His poems have been accepted for publication in Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, The Brooklyn Review, The Carolina Quarterly, The Georgetown Review, Poet Lore, and Sou’wester, among other places. He lives in Portland, Maine, with his wife, the novelist Jenny Siler, and his daughter, Vivica.



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