Stephen Kampa


Jenny Dissed Me

(with apologies to Leigh Hunt)

Jenny dissed me when we met,
Tossing off some thoughtless zinger.
Time may pass; I won’t forget,
Nor regret the grief years bring her.
Say she’s hunkless, cash-strapped, sad,
Say she wishes now she’d kissed me,
Say the cancer’s gotten bad—
Jenny dissed me.

A Malediction: Forbidding Boarding

For a terrible airline

Conveyor of some hundred-something souls
Through turbulent, cloud-tatted sky,
Somehow you’ve gotten by
Delaying flights, rerouting through the Poles

(Your cabin temperatures could freeze a tear),
Expecting thirteen bucks in singles
For lipstick tubes of Pringles
Or three internal organs for warm beer,

And were that all, I’d click back half an inch
And stay unconscious for the flight—
A bored, stiffed stiff’s last right—
But like some lost scene out of David Lynch,

“CAPP” cranks the intercom to warn us all
We’re headed, not beyond the veil,
But to Fort Lauderdale,
Whose dominant lifeform is the tennis ball

And where the average speed is right-turn blinker,
Where DinoBorgs line up to taste
Vanilla denture paste
And shorts already far too pink grow pinker,

Where ancient cads whip out a centerfold
To ogle ads for laxatives,
And where the flesh outlives
All soulfulness. Good God, this getting old—

I had not thought that death had not undone
So many. Watch them as they pass
The days and frequent gas
With equal disregard. One lucky one

Walks walkerless. They’re here, alive and—well,
Alive. And still with years ahead.
The water they must tread
Smells Stygian. O, Airline Straight from Hell, 

The spirit’s transmigration hides this sting:
It dribbles through the same delays,
Prolongs our haggard daze,
And proves, despite the heights, dispiriting.

Stephen Kampa is the author of three collections of poetry: Cracks in the Invisible (2011), Bachelor Pad (2014), and Articulate as Rain (2018). His work has appeared in the Yale Review, Cincinnati Review, Southwest Review, Hopkins Review, Poetry Northwest, Subtropics, and Smartish Pace. He was also included in Best American Poetry 2018 and Together in a Sudden Strangeness: America’s Poets Respond to the Pandemic (2020). During the spring of 2021, he was the writer in residence at the Amy Clampitt House. He teaches at Flagler College.