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Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz

Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1978. She received a BFA from New York University, where she cofounded the NYC-Urbana Poetry Slam.

She is the author of several poetry collections, including How to Love the Empty Air (Write Bloody Publishing, 2018); The Year of No Mistakes (Write Bloody Publishing, 2013), winner of a Book of the Year Award from the Writers’ League of Texas; Everything Is Everything (Write Bloody Publishing, 2010); Hot Teen Slut (The Wordsmith Press, 2001); and Dear Future Boyfriend (The Wordsmith Press, 2000).

She is also the author of two books of nonfiction, including Words in Your Face: A Guided Tour through Twenty Years of the New York City Poetry Slam (Soft Skull, 2007), which, Billy Collins writes, “leaves no doubt that the slam poetry scene has achieved legitimacy and taken its rightful place on the map of contemporary literature.”

Aptowicz has received an Amy Clampitt Residency and a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Selected Bibliography

How to Love the Empty Air (Write Bloody Publishing, 2018)
The Year of No Mistakes (Write Bloody Publishing, 2013)
Everything Is Everything (Write Bloody Publishing, 2010)
Oh, Terrible Youth (The Wordsmith Press, 2007)
Working Class Represent (The Wordsmith Press, 2003)
Hot Teen Slut (The Wordsmith Press, 2001)
Dear Future Boyfriend (The Wordsmith Press, 2000)

Dr. Mutter’s Marvels: A True Tale of Intrigue and Innovation at the Dawn of Modern Medicine (Penguin, 2014)
Words in Your Face: A Guided Tour through Twenty Years of the New York City Poetry Slam (Soft Skull, 2007)

Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz
Photo credit: Dan Winters

By This Poet



The figs we ate wrapped in bacon.
The gelato we consumed greedily:
coconut milk, clove, fresh pear.
How we’d dump hot espresso on it
just to watch it melt, licking our spoons
clean. The potatoes fried in duck fat,
the salt we’d suck off our fingers,
the eggs we’d watch get beaten
’til they were a dizzying bright yellow,
how their edges crisped in the pan.
The pink salt blossom of prosciutto
we pulled apart with our hands, melted
on our eager tongues. The green herbs
with goat cheese, the aged brie paired
with a small pot of strawberry jam,
the final sour cherry we kept politely
pushing onto each other’s plate, saying,
No, you. But it’s so good. No, it’s yours.
How I finally put an end to it, plucked it
from the plate, and stuck it in my mouth.
How good it tasted: so sweet and so tart.
How good it felt: to want something and
pretend you don’t, and to get it anyway.

Things That Happened During Petsitting That I Remind Myself Are Not Metaphors for My Heart

The dog refuses to eat. I keep filling her bowl
anyway: new kibble on top of old, hoping
that it will suddenly becoming tempting.

When I write, the cat watches me from a chair.
When I look at him, he purrs loudly, leans forward
so that I might touch him. I don’t.

Now the dog refuses to come out of her cage,
no matter what I say, no matter how wide I open
the door. She knows that I am not her master. 

On the couch, the cat crawls on top of me
and loves me so hard, his claws draw blood.
I am so lonely, I do nothing to stop it.

There are lights in this house I want to turn on,
but I can’t find their switches. Outside, an engine
turns and turns in the night, but never catches.

Things We Didn't Talk About

The boy found hanging on the golf course.
The boy with the bruises, who’d arrive
to school coatless in the middle of winter.
The man with the red face and the thick stutter
who cleaned up our vomit in grade school.
The veteran who spoke to the seventh grade,
confessed how scared he’d been and wept.
The cousin who disappeared completely
after she refused to eat anything but olives.
The mother who was a drunk. The father
who told us all he was an undercover cop
and that’s why he had the gun. The boy
who got shot. The boy who got cancer
in both legs, his angry dad, his frail sisters.
Why we never got responses to our get well
soon cards, the mute teachers continuing
their lessons plans. What happened
to that hungry black dog who’d bolt
through the school yard, the one
that refused to stay leashed.

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