40 YEARS OF CUTBANK: "Skyping" by Christopher Kempf

From CutBank 79


We must have suspected from the beginning

that the darkness we marked

with animals & objects & gods could be crossed.

Things will be different our ancestors said & meant

our children will have crayons enough

to color fire. Will lie at night

in the warm bed of their less-sadness & ask the stars for what the stars

will send them. Then,

you were that kind of bright, star-

heavy, & left me staring at the flight tracker in Terminal C. Screen

filled with leaving, each

plane a pulsing cross above the continent. I wanted

there to be, on each one, a box

whose job it was to whisper I exist. Just this,

over & over so I’d know. I know

a couple, you said, who spend

their entire lives apart. They put

the coffee on in their separate cities & flip

their laptops open to show each other what the sunlight is like. I like

to imagine them making dinner together in their separate

sunlit windows, the recipe a medley of vegetables & wherever it is

they live— the pinch of salt, the small talk. The coq au vin

steaming on the screen. In São Paulo, you lean

back in the radiance of 800 dpi. I ask if you want to, & we take

our clothes off & are transfigured instantly into pixels. Into packets

of light in the sky over Miami. & I

am thinking again of that couple, of their love

like love, & how you will lie

beside me tonight in the whirring box of my laptop. I’ll turn

you low, & we’ll lie there

while its tiny light pulses off & on in the darkness

like someone breathing. Our bodies

like continents that were touching once.



Christopher Kempf is a Ph.D. student in English at the University of Chicago.  A former Stegner Fellow in Poetry at Stanford, his poetry and essays have appeared most recently in Gulf CoastJacobin, the Los Angeles Review of Books' “Marginalia” blog, The New InquiryThe New RepublicNinth Letter, and Prairie Schooner, among other places.  He received his MFA from Cornell University.