Juliet and Romeo
Mike Across the Street sweeps dust from his carport every
morning before he heads somewhere that’s not work.
Mary From the Next Unit checks in with every neighbor
during and after every storm and keeps political signs up
after the election.
Some Woman And Her Husband spend their lifetimes
on drugs and one day she is dying of cancer and
her husband stabs himself in the stomach because
he can’t bear to think about getting high without
her and he’s in the hospital when she dies.
Your old father can’t stop talking about his Marine days
because there’s nothing new to say, he says.
Everybody’s dying, all god’s children are dying,
but you’re just trying to watch the end of West Side Story
trying to figure out why Maria didn’t just rent a car
and pick up Tony on the way out of town, move to
Minnesota, start over.
I think they needed to belong, is why,
belong inside their world.
What I’m trying to say is it’s hard living sometimes.
What I’m really trying to say is it’s love, people.
We all need love.
To the kid who started the fire across the river
Fireworks were discovered in the ninth century in China by some
unsuspecting cook, an inadvertent mixing of kitchen chemicals.
Or they were intentionally developed to appease some grumpy god who
became tired of the simple altars built for him in the corners of living rooms
and demanded more colorful devotion. I didn’t make this up.
In fourth grade we had an assembly, an old guy with a seeing-eye dog. He talked
to us about the dangers of fireworks, something he seemed to know about.
So now, to the kid who started this fire: If you simply had enough change
in your young pockets to buy one firecracker from the mini-mart, go home now.
I sentence you to live a normal life. Even if your lighter worked the first time and
stole your repose, I forgive you, I will forgive you. Eventually I will forgive you.
But if your throwing motion was the arm of some god, any god, if his pencil had
already traced the arc of the firecracker before either of you had awakened that morning,
if it was destined to miss the creek and hit dry brush, I condemn you to stand here
with me, and watch, and grieve, until all the trees grow back taller than these dead ones
ever wanted to be. And after that, tell me, tell me what is the name of a god who demands that kind of devotion.
P.S. Here is what I’d like to say. I have been
telling myself there is a lesson, some evasive wisdom,
something good to come out of the rubble.
But we, you and I, we know there is nothing. There
is no lesson. There is only fire and no god, and firecrackers
burning down old trees even time itself couldn’t touch.
I know there is no way for me to know more than this.
So I’ll just sit here, and watch mountains, and wait for the next fire.
Casey Killingsworth has been published in numerous journals including The American Journal of Poetry, Better Than Starbucks, The Moth, and 3rd Wednesday. His latest book is A nest blew down (Kelsay Books, 2021), and a new collection, Freak show (Fernwood Press), is due out in early 2023. Casey has a degree from Reed College.