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Why do you ask?

Mum glides a hand behind

my ear as I ask about his used 

car salesman eyes, the sizzle

of his voice in a bathtub

or the buzz of his face bristling 

against her fingers, her parents’

trial separation and reunion

When did you last see him alive?

Did he confiscate your cigarettes

or let you hide them beneath 

your pillowcase like baby teeth?

She holds out a mouldy coin

Is this a magic trick? She digs

shoulder-deep into polluted sands

of his memory, pulls them up

with yabbies nipping her fingertips

and the coin is gone. Did he burn 

easy or tan? The photos never tell

Did he yell a lot or not at all? 

Was he an able swimmer or hopeless

sinker? Did he dream of dissolving?

I ask what was the largest 

fish he ever caught, if he ate 

it all to himself or brought

it home to his family for dinner

She hesitates then replies, Why 

do you ask? Why didn’t you?


Sean West holds a BFA in Creative and Professional Writing. In 2019, he was shortlisted for the Thomas Shapcott Poetry Prize. His work has appeared in StylusLit, Stilts Journal, and Baby Teeth Journal, among others. Find more of him at

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