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Flashlight in hand,
I follow the boy
toward stars.

The backpack gains weight
as we climb. I say,
“There’s Cassiopeia.”
He says, “Uh huh.”

A sound like a painful letting go,
then a rush, a weighted thud
from the forest.
I’m spooked but he calls back
“It was a branch breaking off, Dad.”

I want to protect him from slashers,
lions, tumbling ghosts
but my beam only reaches
the reflectors receding
on his rapid heels
as he rises
against gravity.


Joe Cottonwood has built or repaired hundreds of houses to support his writing habit. His latest book is Foggy Dog: Poems of the Pacific Coast. He’s a pretty good carpenter and a crackerjack grandfather in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California.

© 2017, Joe Cottonwood

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