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by Elizabeth Archers

when my brother was sick
with burning fevers
the last time I was small,
under a heavy mahogany table
and cotton lace cloth,
my ears sucked every morsel
my mother's friends spilled
from the coffeepot and the tips

of cigarettes:
the way my grandmother died,
my father's letters from overseas,

and once
a fireman's mouthful of ashes
when lifting a corpse.

"Koan" originally appeared in "Blown Out: Portland Indie Poets",
an anthology edited and published by me, and has also been included
in the 2009 "Nightbomb Review".

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