For My Brother Lying Next to Me in Bed

In the cabinets, I’m an usher, leading
my little brother to his seat. There’s a tower

in the corner of the room. I try to turn
it off. Surely that tower is the record player

for the voices of my father and for
the voices of my mother. Surely, it calls

out from the gallows. Buried halfway
with the shrieks of dying. Buried halfway

in the leather plush of the sofa pillows
downstairs. He’s burying his head in pillows

I’d like to sleep on. Surely those voices
are like crystals. Crystals like the mocking voices

of the gallows where we’re hanging. Just
the two of us. I can see our executioner’s hair

tickling hoods. Living room light refracting.
But my brother can’t see anything. He’s hanging

over me like a flesh-full specter. Clothes
draping onto mine. He mutters who are they

who are they? I say I’m only an usher.
I say the gallows are something like death.


Learning to Fish in a Puddle on 5th Ave.

I lower my right hand into the water
and grab hold of the Empire State Building.
All 102 floors embrace my palm.
The steel alloy fills
the divot on the top of my hand. The metal
makes me flesh again.

Somebody tells me to stop. I’m not sure
if it’s me or my dad. Our voices
have become so similar. It rained yesterday.
The crest is new. But the bottom
is ancient. I don’t want to stop.

The tourists are crowded
on my fingertips. Their Yankees hats
peer over the cuticle. In my veins
there is money and crime. A women
is watching from across the street. Her baby
nestles like a phone in her arms.

There are more nutjobs in New York City
than the cops care to count. But not many
are androids. The women is calling
a small crowd to me. I’m a lion proud
to roam in her cage.

A real lion would roar. Deep. So guttural
that his dad forgets the word. But I am telling
myself to stop. I don’t want to be
an android or a lion. I watch the women walk
into the convenience store behind me.


Ethan Altshul is a 17-year-old writer whose work is forthcoming in the I-70 Review, the Broadkill Review, and the Evening Street Review. The grandson of two published poets, he currently works as a poetry and prose editor for Kalopsia Literary Journal. When not writing, he constructs crosswords and plays baseball. Ethan lives in West Chester, Pennsylvania, with his family.