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The drywall was torn down after the flood.

Inside was a rat’s nest, containing

moldy rags steeped in floodwater,

patches of dog fur, a Pokémon card,

several Lego minifigs, a dead succulent,

some cotton balls, and a dime.

Forest fires clear space for new growth,

water dampens the past to grotesquely warp

the old.

This trite offering scales small

in the overwhelming stench

of the 200 pounds of basement storage

ritualistically offered to the curb.

The rat, fully evicted a la the ol' poison and so,

left behind this special place—shame

for me to let it waste. So after the kids are asleep

I tiptoe down to the basement

to avoid disturbing any ghosts,

especially that dickhead buried in the wall

whose poltergeist cover story and horrific backstory

is getting tiring,

and there, I step in circles

pawing at the pile of matted stuffing

and lost treasures

and curl up to sleep.



The mighty who? An owl.

That is where I wile my hours, with

Those saucer-eyed birds.

The boy knows nothing about birds, but a bit about fearing the dark. So, after school one day, he quips

that owls are lucky because they can turn their head so far—all the easier for sniping monsters with a

rubber band gun during the witching hour. So he asks his mother

Does the Easter bunny

give owls their eggs? What would

you do with that neck?

Veteran parents approach these carefree questions without care. But today the boy’s mother could be

caught twisting her neck, turning the possibilities over in her head. So lost in thought was she that her

words “you know, I don’t know” came out five minutes after her son had left the room. By the time she

revisited her coffee, it was cold.



Go fuck yourself.

Now that’s an opening stanza.

It’s alienating.

Like italics, which

I’ve recently come to enjoy,

because readers can’t tell if I’m being sarcastic.

But so is eating cheerios with water,

or letting a clipboard solicitor

give financial advice.



“She is still happy and having good days.”

While I read this text, a dog limps past my door

celebrating his 18th month of chronic pain.


my shoulder clicks when I lift stuff.

I had to Google COPD

and you might, too.

I want to peer into the Big

Fish gypsy’s eye,

and know how I’m gonna die.

Regardless of the result—

we'll still have pork tonight.

It is already defrosted.

The runaway train is pamphlets

handed out in doctor’s offices

reminding us that smoking is bad,

and cultural significance does not equate history.


Jeremy Jusek is the poet laureate of Parma, Ohio. He earned his MFA in Creative Writing from Arcadia University and authored the collection We Grow Tomatoes in Tiny Towns (2019). He hosts the Ohio Poetry Association's podcast Poetry Spotlight, runs the West Side Poetry Workshop, and founded the Flamingo Writers Guild. He is also the philanthropy director for the nonprofit Young Professionals of Parma and started the Poets and Playwrights Summer Writing Fellowship through Marietta College. More at

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