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Like a Child

—Mario Duarte

Like a Child

the river cried.


The shore coughed smoke.

Fire ate the pines spitting

out charred toothpicks.

Birds dropped out

of a blood red sky.


An old man counted

days on his fingers.

His wife had already

sailed in a pine boat

to the underworld.

Even their old dog

on a soft pillow barely

raised his dry snout 

to sniff the wildfires.


The smoke had other plans—

it crept like an angel 

over the pine needles

under spiderwebs

inside every limb—

waited for the old,

the young, all ages

to step outside (seeking escape)

to kiss each mouth

with unmatched passion

like a spike in the head.


MARIO DUARTE is an Iowa Writers’ Workshop alumnus. His poems and short stories have appeared in Arkana, Bones, Write Launch, Red Ogre Review, and Rigorous. New work is forthcoming in Bayou, iō Literary Journal, and Ocotillo Review. In 2024, he will publish a poetry collection and a short story collection.

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