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Red Paint

beth boylan / poem


after C. Wade Bentley's "Spin"

Forests are burning tonight, 

fox-cry and cicadas choking on smoke.

I spell out words from conflagration: tragic, toil, torn—float;  

alphabetize one list (plums, toothpaste, water),

then another (car, electric, rent).

Count my blessings, confess my sins, say three Hail Marys,  

reach for the still-unread book borrowed from my father.

Distant sirens give me strange comfort,

and I like to imagine he lies awake hearing them too

(the world should have this kind of magic, I think).

Where does his mind wander on sleepless nights?

Snapping open his briefcase on a train to the city

or diving into the Hudson as a boy in summer.

I picture a dumpster and bags for the Goodwill,

filling them with old suits and swim trunks, 

shuffled papers, everything we have yet to give each other; 

my father padding through darkness 

to the kitchen, filling a glass of water from the sink, 

his throat on fire like mine,

burning, with everything we have yet to say.


Beth Boylan is a poet and high-school English teacher who lives near the ocean in New Jersey. She has been nominated for both a Best of the Net and Pushcart Prize, and her poetry appears in many journals, including Rust + Moth, New York Quarterly, Broadkill Review, and Whale Road Review. She may be found on Instagram @bethiebookworm.


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