Christopher T. Keaveney, “Thoughts and Prayers”

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Thoughts and Prayers

The Hello Kitty piñata
was doomed from the get-go,
ditto the sheet cake
we left at the door of US GUNS
the store that anchors the local strip mall.
We decided too late that bleeding hearts
scrawled inside our bodies
outlined in chalk on the sidewalk
might be overkill.
Five more shootings this week,
one mass and four regulars,
staccato to parse
the familiar rhythms of summer:
beach balls and barbecues,
Thai takeout
and tired TV jingles as therapy.
Special orders don’t upset us.

I love you this much,
the child’s arms spread wide enough
to accommodate the bouquet of lilies
and forget-me-nots
for the brother
who caught a stray bullet
while playing in the local park
toward dusk–
drug deal gone bad in a nearby parking lot,
playing zombie apocalypse star wars
with classmates.
found wedged in the highest point
on the monkey bars
sporting the Darth Vader mask,
not a whimper.
Like a good neighbor.

What if “IMAGINE” spelled
out in Ferrari red
in the frosting
misses the mark?
Maybe a poster with photos
and names of each
of this week’s casualties?
Perhaps a bottle of whiskey
and enough shot glasses
to toast individually each of the lives lost,
the 1970s sitcom
theme songs looped
throughout the day from speakers
in front of the store as BGM?
You deserve a break today.

The brick and mortar of Ecclesiastes,
a dereliction of duties
and a the silent linking of arms
on a warm Sunday afternoon
on the steps of the Capital
waiting on a sweeter chariot.
Surely the familiarity of rituals
applies even here,
reading names
beneath the Schopenhauer flex
of stained glass,
our involuntary flinch
at the pop pop pop of fireworks that marks
another quinceañera celebration in the park.
Have it your way.

As soon as he opens the door we notice
right away his arm in a sling,
the cast all the way up
to the elbow,
the constitution wedged
into the holster above the Glock.
He laughs about the
challenges of cutting the cake
with his cold, dead hands
and gives us a thumbs up
and a wink
before propping Hello Kitty
in the window
as the shop’s maneki-neko
beneath the Group Therapy bull’s eye poster,
a familiar face
to welcome the elect.
I’d like to teach the world to sing.


Christopher T. Keaveney teaches Japanese language and East Asian culture at Linfield College in Oregon and is the author of three books about Sino-Japanese cultural relations. His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Columbia Review, Spoon River Poetry Review, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, The Minetta Review, and elsewhere, and he is the author of the collection Your Eureka Not Mined (Broadstone Books, 2017).


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