Casey Killingsworth ~ Five Poems

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

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.