Me and Milton Friedman
There is something more to lotteries than chance.
For once we’re all quiet and even equal, each one of us
holding our small receipt of democracy, expecting with
magnanimous faces our number to be called.
Except it’s not, not equal. When I took a hundred
dollars without telling my wife and bought
a ticket for a used motorhome, I knew my
chances were the best, they had to be, because
I didn’t want the prize: I needed it, needed
some way to get out of this hole, the rent, the bills,
the vicious dreams we dream that never work out.
And need weighs more than want
and the dreams of owning something shiny
weigh most of all. Do I have to say it?
It probably had engine problems, and that
hundred dollars took us a year to overcome.
The civil war inside me
My mother sorted her beans
in a strainer because you never
know when someone might slip
a rock into the package
you never know and the least
you could lose is a tooth
or maybe the sorting machines
or a tired worker accidentally let one
little rock slip through on the belt
and wham you’re in the dentist
chair. I’ve never been to church.
I don’t understand how it works–
what I mean is I don’t know what
church is for and
I don’t think you do either–
all that praying and singing to
someone you can’t even see.
Only once I prayed, to have all the
rocks end up in someone else’s beans
and my mother said that’s not
the way it works but she was there
then and Jesus wasn’t and now
someone needs to step up and
show me how to sort these beans.
What a dream is
Don’t try writing a poem on
the graveyard shift, don’t try
to vote on the senate floor if
you’ve ever borrowed money
for rent from the guy next door
whose name you do not know,
don’t wear a tie with blisters
on your hands and don’t try
to pronounce elegant drink names
when there are lawyers
two barstools down, just don’t.
I do have hope for the world
This guy in front of me in the drive-thru
has his speakers on “stun” inside his
smoky car that he painted “piece of shit”
on the trunk, with stacks of lumber
barely strapped on top of the dents and
a jungle full of extension cords and tools
heaped in the back seat. I’m thinking he’s doing
what he has to, whatever it takes to make
his way in this tough world, and maybe tonight he
just said fuck it, I’m going to Taco Bell and spending
every cent I made today and after that I’ll go home and
figure out how hard tomorrow is going to kick me.
If power can scream from
behind the pulpit
then strength can
turn off the tv,
if thought is a magazine
full of beliefs,
scrutiny must be hidden
between the pages,
when wealth is a
gold chain with success
dangling off the end
then yearning will be
the highway we dream
we could drive down,
the stripe down
the middle sitting
there for no good
Casey Killingsworth has work in The American Journal of Poetry, Two Thirds North, and other journals. His book of poems, A Handbook for Water, was published by Cranberry Press in 1995 and a new book, A nest blew down, is due in July 2021 from Kelsay Books. Casey has a Master’s degree from Reed College.