Amber Drive, Kevin Rippin


poems by

Kevin Rippin

ISBN: 978-1-59948-692-5,  92 pages, $14

Release Date:  July 31, 2018


Kevin Rippin earned an MA in writing from the University of Pittsburgh. He has worked as a corporate editor and writer, and currently teaches writing as a full-time lecturer at NC A&T University, in Greensboro, NC. He has published articles, reviews and poetry in magazines and journals across the country, including Southern Poetry Review, Poetry East and Pittsburgh Quarterly. His has one previous chapbook, One Shuddering Tremolo (Arbuckle Press).

Kevin Rippin’s Amber Drive is full of poems that are both heart-breaking and humorous. He tears down the flimsy cardboard facades we erect and reveals our true selves in all their beautiful imperfection. With the confidence, humility, and wisdom of a veteran poet, Rippin takes down Amber Drive, and many other strange, normal American places. It’s one helluva ride. Jim Daniels

Kevin Rippin’s terrific, necessary book, Amber Drive, inhabits a landscape that is everywhere in America, except perhaps in its poetry. Amber Drive stretches through “suburbs of careful handshakes” to places overrun by suburbs: Men, casting fishing lines into pond scum, “dream real lakes, real fish, real lives.“ Rippin pays homage to this America co-populated by the unemployed steel worker and the bored, over-burdened white-collar office worker, as well as by its most remarkable character, the poet, who says with plaintive self-knowledge, “Everything I love, I must imagine.” —Lynn Emanuel, Professor

Rippin’s poems blaze a scorched earth path into the heart of the real America. With meticulous attention to the little frictions of the ordinary, angst and ennui build, gain relief in a stinging, yet charming gallows humor. The poems are sexy, smart, and seductively familiar until the hammer blow falls. Imagine the dark zaniness of Edward Field melded with the honest witness of Philip Levine and you have this marvelous volume demanding our fullest attention. Marc Harshman, 2017 Blue Lynx Prize winner and Poet Laureate of West Virginia

House on New York Avenue

I live around the corner
from the Yuppies on Ventnor,
two blocks from the blue bloods
with big bucks. Every night
my terrier and I take a stroll
past mansions huge as hotels.
I dream of seaside condos,
sprawling penthouse views, know
it’s mostly the toss of the dice
that determines where a body lands.

Just beyond pruned estate lawns,
purple slums rise, then the jail.
My walk is a circle. I live here,
in a modest split entry
off Amber Drive,
on New York Avenue,
in a neighborhood of almost
where the streets burn orange
with envy, halfway between
the cursed and the lucky.



Belle’s Body

The miners in Morbito’s Tavern
drank themselves drunk every Friday night
beneath the bump and shimmy
& jut of her grinding muscles.
She’d grease their minds blind,
rotate one tassel on one nipple
with dips of her shoulder, then
rotate the other in teasingly slow circles.

Everyone forgot his wife
& occasionally the rules of the house.
One night when a drunk below the stage
brushed Belle’s bare right foot,
two apes came snorting from behind the bar
& pounded the living shit out of him,
& everyone agreed he deserved it
because everybody knew nobody touched
Belle’s body. Belle’s body was the body
that came utterly naked and white
into all of their bedrooms
when the kids stopped crying
& the wife fell asleep.



Stephen Hawking at the Cineplex

He’s sprawled in his wheelchair,
taking tickets at the end of the runway,
his gnarled body a battered suitcase
for his amazing brain. He can’t stop
a single string of drool from forming
between his lip and his chin, though
he can calculate how fast the universe is
unraveling. We’re here to watch
the ironic American comedy in Theater 16.
We hand him our stubs. His claw fingers,
bereft of small motor skills, can’t grasp them.
He switches on a box. His mechanized voice
asks if we could tear them, please. We do,
and with great trembling effort, he points us
down the hall. Our luck is we can walk away
without a thought, effortlessly open a door,
find our seats, plop down, cross our legs,
wrap our arms around each other, kiss
in the dark. Later, I feel the stub burning
in my pocket like a lottery ticket. I thumb it,
clutch it in my fist, roll it into a perfect ball.
This is a planet where the lamb’s blessing
lies down with the lion’s curse. Driving home,
we discuss Stephen Hawking at the Cineplex,
agree the cost of genius isn’t worth the price,
her hand ruffling the hair on my neck,
my hand turning the wheel, turning the wheel.

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