Five Poems by Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz

In the Movie of My Life I Sometimes Imagine

In the opening credits, I am riding the subway.
It’s a montage of all of my morning commutes.
My clothing and the books I’m reading change,
but everything else stays pretty much the same.

My weary character is messy but determined.
The montage itself is supposed to reflect life’s
monotony, but there’s pockets of humor too:
the mornings I’m so tired I don’t realize I am

holding my book upside down; the times
I’ve accidentally worn my sweater inside out
and backwards, the small pale tag hanging
like a flag of surrender at my throat; how

I like to make eye contact with dogs in bags,
their wet noses pressed against the mesh. Still,
it’s clear the movie is not a thin comedy. There
is a real person here. I’m a real person here.

I tend to fantasize about this movie the most
while I’m on the subway. Pretend I am being
filmed, angle my face to just left of where
I imagine the camera should be. I pause

to let viewers see me, really see me. My brain’s
director tells me my motivation. I am to think:
determined. Sometimes, deserving. I tend to think:
struggling. Sometimes, useless. But I push

through it. And then, at the perfect moment.
I swing my head right, look past the camera
into what I assume is my triumphant future.
I imagine this is where the film jump-cuts

to black, where the opening credits end and
the real meat of the movie begins. Only, I have
no idea what is supposed to happen next.
I haven’t gotten that far. So instead, I go back

to the opening, me in the subway again. Still.
Sometimes I imagine the music playing over
the opening credits. Is it happy? Is it sad?
Does it make any difference at all?


My Elementary School Confessions

I never finished my year-end final report on Apartheid,
and by never finished, I mean never even started.

For a whole year, I made fun of a kid because his lunchmat
showcased the brief biographies of every U.S. President

despite the fact that I had a proximity-based crush on him,
and that honestly I’d kill to have that lunchmat now.

While my friends did their oral reports on, no joke,
the RFK assassination conspiracy and the mating songs

of humpback whales, I phoned it in with two reports
on the only things I cared about: dogs and bigfoot.

My teacher only agreed to these topics, I’m sure,
because she thought it would bring some passion

and actual effort to my work. It did not. In the first grade,
I kicked a kid named Dennis in the nuts so frequently,

his mother had a conversation with me during library time.
In second grade, I broke a two foot tall Virgin Mary statue

which belonged to my teacher: a catholic nun named Mary.
In the third grade, I constantly ate the plastic buttons

off my shirts just hoping I’d get sick. In the fourth grade,
my entire book report on James and the Giant Peach

was really just one long run-on sentence and somehow
I still got an “A.” In the fifth grade, I told my classmates

my Sunflowers repro on canvas was a real Van Gogh.
In the sixth grade, I had the whole school pray for my dad

who was missing in the San Francisco earthquake,
when in reality, he was safe in his hotel lobby in Oakland,

organizing businessman to make the rounds to all
the local powerless restaurants, offering to eat

their melting ice cream and defrosting shrimp cocktails.
It took years for people to stop thinking he was dead.


Times I Wish I Were Funnier

Every day.



After Reading Old Unrequited Love Poems

If I didn’t think it’d make me appear crazy still,
I’d apologize to you for having been so crazy then.

Reading the poems I had written about “us”
resurrected all that nervous heat, reminded me

of the insistent stutter of my longing,
how I could never just lay it out there for you.

The answer, clearly, would have been
no, thank you. But perhaps that tough line

would have been enough to salvage all
that was good and woolly about us: your laugh,

that golden ring I’d always stretch a story for;
the pair of mittens we’d split in the cold

so we’d each have a hand to gesture with;
how even now, the paths we took are filled

with starry wonder and all that bright limitless air.
I’m sorry I could never see myself

out of the twitching fever of my heartache,
that I traded everything we had for something

that never ended up being. But if I could take
any of it back, it wouldn’t be the glittering hope

I stuck in the amber of your eyes, nor would
it be the sweet eager of our conversations.

No, it would be that last stony path to nothing,
when we both gave up without telling the other.

How silence arrived like a returned valentine
that morning we finally taught our phones not to ring.




Last night, you came home so drunk,
you appeared hammered even in my dreams.
In the dream, important people from my past
gaped at the doorway of our bedroom, jamming
their fingers in their ears, yelling, God, he is
so drunk! Last night, you snored so garishly,
that the shaggy cats we were catsitting
began spontaneous fighting. It was anarchy,
an all-cat version of Altamont and your chokes
and gurgles and snorts were the Rolling Stones,
man. This morning, I woke up five minutes
before the alarm was set to go off and I thought,
Aw, fuck it. Went to my computer and found
you had left me a hot limp pickle wrapped
in saran wrap laying next to my keyboard.

More poetry at Used Furniture.


  1. Great stuff here, Cristin. Thanks for the good read.

  2. What a wonderful poet. From “Deep Dish Pizza” (one of her poems included in a Chicago-centric anthology) to a nut-kicking elementary school student to failed relationships to warm, limp pickles in saran wrap … Cristin’s writing is the stuff of life.

  3. These are amazing! I love, love, love the first one and the one titled “Times I Wish I Were Funnier”


  1. […] of our favorites, Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz. She is joined by Stevie Edwards. Cristin also has five poems in the Used Furniture Review where she is joined by Kyle […]

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