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On the Haunted Hayride with Audrey

Keetje Kuipers

Who, by the way, is dead. Who hung herself
in the neighbor’s woods last week, just in time

for Halloween. Whose lank green hair I know
only from the Missing signs posted

on telephone poles, now rain-logged and peeling
in ragged strips of zombie bandages.

Who should be here tonight not as a ghost
but as a teenager, like these other ten

dressed in scarecrow rags, who blank-faced
writhe to the latest pop hit, spooking

my own small daughter. It’s alright, I tell her,
towhead hidden in hay bales. Just teenagers.

Audrey, I don’t have to be your mother
to be furious with you. When a specter

zip-lines across the field, gown aglow
with battery-operated beauty,

my child lifts her eyes and gasps, They forgot
the angel wings, Mommy, so that I want

to stand up and yell, Audrey, get down from there
this minute! Stop scaring me half to death.

Keetje Kuipers is the author of three books of poems, all from BOA Editions: Beautiful in the Mouth (2010), winner of the A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize; The Keys to the Jail (2014); and All Its Charms(2019). Kuipers’ poems, essays, and short stories have appeared in Best American Poetry, Narrative, American Poetry Review, and Prairie Schooner. She has been a Wallace Stegner Fellow, Bread Loaf’s Katharine Bakeless Nason Fellow, the Emerging Writer Lecturer at Gettysburg College, and the recipient of fellowships from the Lucas Artist Residency, the Jentel Artist Residency Foundation, Brush Creek Foundation for the Arts, and PEN Northwest’s Margery Davis Boyden Wilderness Writing Residency. Kuipers lives with her wife and daughter on an island in the Salish Sea, where she is a faculty member at Seattle’s Hugo House and senior editor at Poetry Northwest