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1.

When a boy’s father decides

to go away to live

in California,

look up at the sky

turned upside down,

at all those migrating birds

now struggling in the dirt,

their bodies flayed

open for beetles, for snakes,

for boys without feathers.

 

2.

If you take a boy and turn him

upside down

before he knows

where his feet belong, give him

a frayed Black Sabbath t-shirt,

a leather jacket

covered in war paint and spikes,

combat boots—

he can stomp the world

into shapes he understands.

 

3.

When I was a boy,

there was no such thing

as California,

only that distance between

me and my father—now I know

California is where

everything is supposed to be

upside down

like my memory of boyhood

is a vicious song on the radio.

 

4.

If you spark a flame and turn

it upside down,

you will find it is still

a flame, your fingers

ablaze—turn a boy upside down

and you

might discover his hands

gripping your ankles

your own face perilously

                                close to the ground.

 

5.

A star is a lovely blemish

on the night’s complexion:

turn it upside down

and it’s a boy

cloaked in buzzards

and fire, his father

a flock of birds heading south—

they are light

and then they are darkness,

and then they are gone.

W. Todd Kaneko is the author of The Dead Wrestler Elegies (Curbside Splendor, 2014). His poems and prose have appeared in Bellingham Review, Los Angeles Review, Barrelhouse, The Normal School, The Collagist, and many other journals and anthologies. A Kundiman fellow, he is co-editor of Waxwing magazine and lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he is an assistant professor at Grand Valley State University.

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