THE HUMAN NEST
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
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.
HAIBUN FOR HOOTERS
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.
I DID A TERRIBLE JOB WRITING THIS POEM
Go fuck yourself.
Now that’s an opening stanza.
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.
THE END STAGES OF COPD
“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 jeremyjusek.com.