Back to Issue Thirty-Three




Tonight, the god of this forest
is a grief-struck boy, dark hearted coyote
howl against the porch light

flickering, bright knife sharpened
against a jagged treeline. Let me
show you how night feels

its way across the island, over
the woods outside my father’s house,
in silent prayer to the god of the porch,

of the kitchen cupboard, the wood
burning stove, because in the living
room, all the photos of my father
show him as a man about my age

but more sly about everything
I can never know. He whispers in my ear
while I sleep, secrets about how to live

alone on an island, about reverence
for silence when all a man has is memory
of light. Let me show you what he tells me.

The warmth of his breath, the gravel
in his voice before I cut down the trees.






Remember me, my father sings
to the forest, his mouth wide,
eyes looking back into darkness
like he can see every creature
on the island—field mouse, stray
dog and house cat, white-tailed deer.
That waitress at the Chinese restaurant
once asked his name, then fed him
every night for the rest of his life
without ever showing him a menu.
Some nights, the sky speaks to me
of so many things I will not forget
to be glad for—the horizon’s swift
departure against the porch light,
a fluster of bats over power lines
and across the park, that taciturn
music made by the wind’s hollow
breath outside while my son kicks off
his blankets, the sound a flag makes.


W. Todd Kaneko is the author of the poetry books This is How the Bone Sings (Black Lawrence, 2020) and The Dead Wrestler Elegies (Curbside Splendor, 2014) and co-author of Poetry: A Writers’ Guide and Anthology (Bloomsbury Academic, 2018). A Kundiman fellow, he lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan where he teaches at Grand Valley State University.


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