“In the Fire Afterlife,” “Transplanted,” and “America’s Bullet”

In Issue 63 by Keith Mark Gaboury

Edwin Deakin, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

In the Fire Afterlife,

the Great Chicago Fire of 1871,

the Great Boston Fire of 1872,

and the Great San Francisco Fire of 1906

crowds the chemical space

of My Great-Grandma’s Kitchen Fire of 1977.

Flames climbed her walls

like rats

before red teeth gnawed into her skin.

Shall we call this fire great

or a lesser label

that only collapsed one life?

When I clench my eyes shut

into a temporary death, I see

the ghosts of urban fires

extinguish my kin’s

grease-ignited inferno.


I stumble over sidewalk trash

in this neighborhood knot

I no longer want my body

to occupy. On Mosswood Park’s

green assertion, tent stakes

bury into soil

where unhoused hearts vibrate.

Is anyone listening?

A scoop of hours ago

when darkness triumphed

in our concrete kingdom,

I heard pop pop pop

on the privilege of my mattress.

Under a smear of Oakland sunlight,

I pick my bloody self up

and wonder: what if I transplanted my heart

into a fern-painted kitchen

where smiles get served

alongside a low-poverty rate

and strawberry ice cream.

Through the kitchen window

into the backyard, I see my constructed self

palm an appleseed

over buffalo grass.

Watch a sapling

burst through black soil

by the strength of solar kisses.

America’s Bullet

America took their bullet for a walk

where its metal frame

pressed a caliber width into brown skin

within a high-melanin neighborhood

outsiders stamp as one more ghetto.

America took their bullet for a jog

to shake off the residue

of last night’s murder.

A brown boy I knew

since he suckled from orphaned milk

got his dinner removed

after America took their bullet for a sprint

through playground screams

and past a store that hasn’t seen a fresh

apple skin. A brown body

lies unheard in an autopsy room.

America dances with their bullet

while brown humans sleep hungry

under a concrete sky.

About the Author

Keith Mark Gaboury

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Keith Mark Gaboury earned a M.F.A. in creative writing from Emerson College. His chapbooks were released through Duck Lake Books and The Pedestrian Press. He has a forthcoming chapbook from Finishing Line Press. Keith is also the Vice President of the Berkeley Branch of the California Writers Club.

Read more work by Keith Mark Gaboury .