Gunshots and Fireworks Are Sort Of the Same in the End.

 

                                                  —after Matthew Dickman

 

As I get a little bit older, I reach the beginning of July
and begin to pray for a little quiet: Bruce Springsteen and
Fleetwood Mac turned down low and all the sausages done
with their hissing and pulled off the grill. One evening,
I am alone, and when I open the fridge, through all the glare
I see the milk is gone. The milk carton is like an odd white
clown, blue label, old foam wrapped once and again around
its mouth. I need this to go to sleep—tonight will not allow
for sleep on its own—and I consider wandering down into
the dark, past all the mailboxes and scrawny hobos in their
rugged clothes. I consider whether or not I could outrun them
if the time came. For a single moment, I can. I’m stomping
the weird clown into a flat shape with my bare feet, wondering
whether the cat will take care of the foam—and then first boom
crashes across the Bay. When I was little, the country was open
to the hunting of ducks, and deer and road-siders, as long as
the gunshots blended with the sounds of joy. It had always sounded
like war and thunder to me, the crashes that woke everyone
from their beds and left children and pets and farm animals alike
looking for arms wide enough to hold them or an underneath
large enough to hide them. The cat beside me requires my fingers
in her hair and my voice in her ear, promising that these sounds
are planned. My dog, Jack, used to need the same assurance
around the Fourth, and this year is worse than usual, the Day
of Independence landing on a Thursday, when the fireworks
are purchased in advance and the crashes continue for three more
days. July 8th should be four days after the stress has passed,
rather than only one day later. The end of his life will have been full
of crashes and booms, gunshots and accidental deaths, the loss
of gunmen’s toes, the reports of teenagers forcing fireworks
into dogs’ mouths and then igniting them. And yet I sit here
wondering about sleep and clowns and whether or not I should
buy milk from whatever venue is open. He deserves
the proper send-off: his toenails should be painted purple
like mine, a black and purple and gray dog, with an old red bandana
tucked into his collar that no longer fits. It’s supposed to rain
tomorrow, but if we can find a dry place, I will take him out
to the yard he loves and read him some Robert Creeley, saving
“The Messengers” for last, his little love and long hanging hair,
his eyes like blue sapphire and milk when they used to be chestnut,
Bruce Springsteen playing in the background, McDonalds cups
littering the driveway.

 

for Jack

 

*

 

“his little love and long hanging hair” is borrowed and mildly revised from Robert Creeley’s “The Messengers”

 

 

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