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it howls
the beast black-backed and fanged
his language languishing
banished back to a growl
and I
the foul thing’s stink stuck slathered with slime
slick and soaked in it
grappling with grime
the crime: twelve winters’ murders
dozens dead
what’s another demise
so I
at beck and call
my godfather’s all and only hope
I rise
tick-tock to the time
across oceans’ roads past rows of ghosts
of hosts of demons that I’ve slain
a name I made by trading lives
till monstrous I became
and I
arrive alive again to try
my luck, my name
to gain more fame and fortune
apportion me my glory fee
and I will fight for thee
do I
now holding hard this monster’s hand
a man do I pretend to stand
a man who draws lines in the sand
a man and not a brand
but I
hear bone-shard and sinew crack
the black beast’s fangs full-fearing
back to bed in slayer’s surf
would run sore shrieking
seeking solace from that sound
but I
hold fast and last I grasp
clasp the struggling mass of stink
I think of a time gone by
where buying time was a time to come
and I
feel bending turned to rending
and defending turned to ending
and lending turned to spending
of a life lived giving all
and howl

Richard Ford Burley (they/he) is a writer of speculative fiction and poetry as well as Deputy Managing Editor of the journal Ledger. Their second novel, Displacement, was published in hardcover in February 2020 by Prospective Press and is now available in paperback. They post updates (occasionally) at, and they tweet (unceasingly) at @arreffbee.
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The statue of that gorgeous and beloved tyrant, my father, stands in a valley where the weather has only ever been snow.
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