Two poems by David P. Kozinski

Role of a Lifetime

        When a stately home bursts into flames,
        instead of the fireman I summon,
        an arsonist bursts on the scene,
        and he is I. – Pablo Neruda, “We Are Many”

When I was a skinny, wired kid
I scratched my fantasy roles on onionskin
and slipped them in a low drawer.
                Now, it’s my movie and I’ve cast myself
as the fat man who lifts a pith helmet
to sop his sweat in a colonial backwater
but the wheezing senator from a small state
with a coveted vote, in seersucker and a string tie,
looks out from the mirror and offers,
“Nothing for free.”

Like a scalper
standing on hard ground
I hold up a fistful of tickets
printed with nothing but dots and squiggles
and in the other hand rests
a tumbler of liquid, amber and acrid.
September’s crickets persist in their argument
for balance: the cicadas are quiescent
as is the turntable where Dizzy Gillespie used to spin.
                I slip on the stones in the stream
but my compass still aims north.
From the briars comes the itching hiss:
Back to the mines, the plush raw underground

but I’ve become the cat
that wrote the article about the canary
then balled up and swallowed
those lined yellow sheets when it didn’t win a prize;
fingers of ink branching in my gut
and urging what I resist –
to go down into the cavern with its reptile belly walls
and bring up the bony tools
and blood-dyed props of a story
that cuts like a fault
deep below my feet.


New Year After New Year

In the first few minutes
there’s only knowing something
is different and it isn’t good
and then, here a drawer left open,
there an empty wall, broken glass
under a window
and you realize you’ve been robbed.
                Slowly an inventory amasses:
mostly the insignificant and replaceable
but also a grandfather’s watch
with its sunny face and jaunty fob,
mother’s locket, the erotic iris
your friend rendered in pastels – its amber
and gold and umber
hermaphroditic splendor taken
probably for the frame.
                And that is when a new year
nudges the corpse of the old one
onto the fire escape, off the landing
and down to the sidewalk, littered
with the shredded tissues of poppers
and punchy messages – greetings from another time
with its fragrance of youthful skin,
lilac and frankincense,
its hothouse pliancy and ruddy, hot pistol,
the saltwater vibraphone hum
sent across the water from a distant island.
                That is when the burglary
is complete, the heirloom fenced.
A new digit clacks across the wire
and the night train rolls out
past bluffs and palisades, through shadowed valleys,
its passengers nodding like drooping roses.


David P. Kozinski has two full-length books of poems, both from Kelsay Books. The original manuscript of I Hear It the Way I Want It to Be (2022) was a finalist for the Inlandia (California) Institute’s Hillary Gravendyke Prize. Tripping Over Memorial Day was published in 2017. His chapbook, Loopholes, won the Dogfish Head Poetry Prize. Kozinski is the Resident Poet at Rockwood Park and Museum in New Castle County, Delaware. He was the 2018 Delaware Division of the Arts Established Professional Poetry Fellow. Publications forthcoming in North of Oxford and Eunoia Review.

Heavy, Heavy Metal by David P. Kozinski

Heavy, Heavy Metal

You finally find your row
and your seat, looking forward
to a night that lifts and bounces,
that stickily edges you when it can
to its or anyone’s full-body tease
unmasked, at ease. What remains is fog
hanging like crepe, unsupported;
willows billowing.

And just like that, the re-humpty-dumptification
of the egg industry and other slight miracles
are accomplished, and release comes
at the end of a chain of trumpets and trombones
which is to say it’s brassy – sounds it, feels it
even tastes it. The saliva drips thinly
from the clarinet’s bell
and the chimes and lyre
stir a roux of black Sabbath.


David P. Kozinski was a finalist for the Inlandia (California) Institute’s 2020 Hillary Gravendyke Prize for a book-length poetry manuscript. Publications include a chapbook, Loopholes, that won the Dogfish Head Poetry Prize, and his full-length book of poems, Tripping Over Memorial Day (Kelsay Books). Kozinski was named 2018 Mentor of the Year by Expressive Path, a non-profit that facilitates youth participation in the arts. He serves on the boards of the Manayunk-Roxborough Art Center in Philadelphia and the Eastern Shore Writers Association, and on the editorial board of Philadelphia Stories magazine. He is Art Editor of Schuylkill Valley Journal and Rockwood Park & Museum’s resident poet.

Arrivals/Departures by David P. Kozinski


The woman I don’t recognize
except in the glitter and ruins of dreamland
looks a little like Diana Krall,
tells me her father died,
not when or how

and I wrap my rough hand over hers
the way paper overcomes rock,
the way overcoming can shield and heal
and say in the commonest way
I don’t have words
for moments like this.

As if the two are related
she adds, “I was born at the airport.”
Maybe she means came into the world
with baggage. Maybe she means
people only pause, in transit.

I summon a look of understanding
to my eyes and lay my hand
flat on the table
parallel to hers, so that together
they shape something wingèd
at rest, contemplating flight.


David P. Kozinski received a Poetry Fellowship from the Delaware Division of the Arts and was named 2018 Mentor of the Year by Expressive Path, which facilitates youth participation in the arts. His full-length book of poems, Tripping Over Memorial Day, was published by Kelsay Books. He received the Dogfish Head Poetry Prize, including publication of his chapbook, Loopholes (Broadkill Press). Recent publications include Anti-Heroin Chic, Broadkill Review and North of Oxford. He serves on the board of the Manayunk-Roxborough Art Center in Philadelphia, the Editorial Board of Philadelphia Stories and is Art Editor of the Schuylkill Valley Journal.