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After the war
between the country where I live and the country where you live,
I take my children to the park.
They rough-and-tumble in the chippings
and their fat little gumboots squeak on the slide.

Beside them, the shadow children play.

They are hard to see, but only because it hurts to look.
Shadows so blinding that I ache to
turn my face away.
Their bright absences flit between my children,
their laughter flickering in the silences,
soft as falling ash.

Sometimes a shadow-parent sits on the bench beside me.
I can tell by the way I tense, by the
by the way I suddenly feel
that I take up too much space.
But still
I turn to where they are not,
and I nod to them, and they to me.

For somewhere, perhaps,
a missile’s flight away,
a politician’s ego away,
a pushed-button away,
there is a park where you sit
watching your children
as they whoop and chase and throw chippings in one another’s hoods,
and there, I am the absence on your bench,
and my children play
in the shadow of yours.

Jess Hyslop is a writer of fantasy, fabulism, and science fiction. Her work has been published in venues such as Black Static, Interzone, and Cossmass Infinities, and her debut novella, Miasma, is out now from Luna Press. Jess can be found online at
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10 Jun 2024

In summer, the crack on the windowpane would align perfectly with the horizon, right around 2 p.m.
airstrikes littering the litanies of my existence
I turn to where they are not, / and I nod to them, and they to me.
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