Brett Warren

A man was murdered on Willow Street

where not a willow can be found—just a strip of dealerships, countertop and carpet stores, the kind of semi-feral place you might wind up if you need some damage hammered out and painted over. The paper said it happened in broad daylight, called it brazen. The word brawl jumped out. A silver sedan with tinted windows sped away from what they first said was a stabbing, and then a gunshot wound. Later, at the hospital, three gunshot wounds. The police said it was about drugs. We’d already guessed as much. Violence begets violence, we said, live by the sword and shook our heads. But by then our brains were busy adding things like young men and gangs, scanning for a name to infer color of skin, fill it in. We checked to see if the dead man was from here. He was. We didn’t know him. Didn’t expect we would. But they tracked down someone from his neighborhood, who said he used to pay for all the kids at the ice-cream truck in summer. He worked at the auto-body shop where it happened, and the strangest thing—we realized that on his way to work, he’d driven over the spot where he would die, which made us think of that old saying someone just walked over my grave. Did I mention he died in the road? A woman stopped to help, and then another. They were nurses, so of course they would have done that, no matter what. We imagined the women kneeling next to him, the three of them on the same asphalt. One of the women took off her jacket, folded it to make a pillow for his head. Maybe he saw their faces at the end. Maybe he looked at the sky.

Brett Warren is an editor whose poetry has appeared in Halfway Down the Stairs, Cape Cod Poetry Review, The Comstock Review, Green Fuse, Cape Cod & the Islands Magazine, and elsewhere. She lives in Massachusetts.

Photo by Lucas Carl


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