Keith Kopka

At the Haunted Doll Market

They call buying them adoption.
The seller knows Betty doll drowned
in a lake because she told him
through his radio scanner, said the words
water, Robert, boat, tree, under, and her name.
And sometimes I listen to my downstairs neighbor
beat his girlfriend. He did twenty-four
years before the state admitted
he was wrongly incarcerated. Pretty sure
I’m not scared of him, but I don’t call
the cops either. Some couples get a doll
because they can’t have children,
and each handwritten purchase agreement
begins with a promise that Betty,
or Bianca, would love to join a good
spirit family. Every morning, my neighbor
helps his daughter up the steep stairs
onto her school bus. Sometimes his girlfriend
comes running to the curb with a book,
or forgotten lunch. Dresses and new hairstyles
are essential to happiness, reads the tag
on Bianca; Betty’s says she’s good with dogs,
but hates birds. Vendors have
different theories to explain how
a spirit can enter an object. My neighbor’s
girlfriend isn’t the mother of his child. I know
because he calls her a dumb barren cunt.
In nice weather, all three of them spend
evenings out on their patio. He pumps iron.
She braids his daughter’s hair, yells at her
when she won’t stay perfectly still.

Keith Kopka is the Managing Director of the Creative Writing Program at Florida State University. His poetry and criticism have recently appeared in The International Journal of The Book, Mid American Review, New Ohio Review, Ninth Letter, and others. Kopka was a finalist for the 2016 National Poetry Series. He is also an Assistant Editor at Narrative Magazine, a recipient of a Chautauqua Arts Fellowship, and a Vermont Studio Center Poetry Fellowship.