The Brooklyn Rail

APRIL 2022

All Issues
APRIL 2022 Issue


Accounting for What There Was

You must look to be able to imitate
The way one of her arms slides over the arm
And then the hands fanning out as if to reveal a coin or a rabbit
There is some dancing here and there
If you turn the music on

I can count the diapers or the number of times she blinks
Staring at the ridges in a piece of bark
Or studying the cat’s whiskers
Threatening to pull

Sometimes her laughter is edged with fear or tears
Robotics are a gray area
As with most foods
You could say push-pull or you could count on a tension
In the space between her body and the automatic vacuum

Numberless she counts, takes account of
Pulls my shirt up and pokes, puts shirt down, repeat
Chronicles of smush, records of rough, her fingers
Tracing a vast safehouse of experience

The cup
The basket
The plate with no more
She plumbs the bottom of whatever container she has emptied
Utter refusal
Incomprehensible that
What there just was, no longer

Stop Looking

Saying come never works. The person has to decide to return to you.

The baby toddles over grass and sticks, falls into a hole, waits to be stood back up.

Once it was suggested I buy my child a wibbly wobbly, or what was it called?

She became this, and then she solidified.

Almost pirouetting, she chases cats around the house, her path a rabid spider’s web.

It takes a reed-wetted mouth to root into soil and wait for her, to believe she’ll need to look at me again.

The doctors ask if she watches my mouth when I talk, but her gaze gloms onto wide pastures,
arcades of lindens in the park, older children scooting in the distance.

Who am I to interest her? What would she with my mouth?

Ferryman, I wait in my vestibule, dock and redock. Aware of the difference between a way to get
somewhere and somewhere.

Where wood rots, she etches an abyss, sideswipes aphids.

Stop looking at me, her body screams. Can’t you see I am alone now?

Everything New (Playground Poem)

If you believe me, everything is new, and nothing is old,
and anything broken, she can fix it.

And excuse me, Mama, sorry, Mama

New park, new park, new park, she says?

Yes, yes, yes, I say, opening the same rusted gate.

A four foot bar becomes resting spot for the backs of the knees.
Before it was a branch to swing from.
Before a horse to ride.

Nothing is old. Everything is new.

The missing piece was always a space to explore, a chance for edges, a welcome mat.

Wanting to believe if she can climb up, then she can get down,

Knowing nothing is the same when you turn around and look back from where you came.
Everything is changed.

In her hand, the used tip of a florescent water balloon.
All around, the virus rages.
Dog commands are what I speak—drop it, leave it, no.

In every broken thing, in every piece of trash, a question
What happened

A story
Here’s what happened

They say she isn’t playing but working. I say she isn’t talking but writing.
One of these pays, the rest they say are cheap, but play is what I’m paying for

And I shell out for any swing that turns her into a bird of flight


Karen Lepri

Karen Lepri is the author of Incidents of Scattering (Noemi, 2013). Her work has appeared in 6x6, Boston Review, Chicago Review, Conjunctions, Lana Turner, and elsewhere. She teaches writing at NYU.


The Brooklyn Rail

APRIL 2022

All Issues