Leah Johnson

The Goldfinch

for David Keplinger

It’s about intrigue and injury and losing one’s way.
But mostly it’s about how beauty sustains us
how in the night we think about it
wrapped up and stashed under our bed
how we can get down on our knees
peer into the dark and retrieve it
untie the twine that binds it, release it
from the layers of fading newspaper
bring it out —ours. Or how
even the belief that we own it
keeps us alive. This
is what you teach us.


Written for a colleague, this poem is dedicated to David Keplinger, a Professor in the MFA Program of the Department of Literature at American University. Keplinger is the author of four books of poems, most recently The Most Natural Thing (New Issues, 2013), and he teaches during the summers at the Institute for Creative Writing and Literary Translation at John Cabot University in Rome.


Leah Johnson is a full-time professor on the College Writing faculty at American University in Washington, DC and a member of the Surrey Street Poets. Her work has been published in Green Mountains Review and in The Healing Muse. In previous incarnations, she has been a journalist, co-founder and artistic director of Georgetown’s Dumbarton Concert Series, US coordinator for Yehudi Menhuin’s outreach program Live Music Now!, and a piano teacher.