A goldenrod sun forces through
a humid Kansas sky. A child plays
with cheap snapping fireworks.
Gravel, silver fulminate,
and his sense of power are wrapped
in cigarette paper shaped like teardrops.
One at a time, he throws and pops them.
His older brother looks down from a toolbox
on the bed of his father’s truck. He says nothing.
He offers only his eyes to watch,
and nods of encouragement.
The cement street is covered in wrinkles;
its gutters are cluttered with wrappers.
The boy’s front yard looks like a garage sale
of trash and toys: Empty Marlboro
cases, burnt Hot Wheels cars,
and bruised dog toys. Their dog watches
the boy throwing snappers. The boy
ignores the dog’s bark and warning.
~ Matthew David Manning
Matthew David Manning is a poet from Pittsburg, Kansas where he teaches at Pittsburg State University in the Intensive English Program. Matthew holds degrees in creative writing from Arizona State University and Pittsburg State University. Matthew is passionate about educating non-native English speakers about poetry, and recently returned from spending two years in Suzhou, China. (www.mattwritenow.com)
Melissa Fite Johnson, a high school English teacher, received her Master’s in English literature from Pittsburg State University in Kansas. Her poetry has appeared in several publications, including I-70 Review, The Little Balkans Review, The New Verse News, velvet-tail, Inscape Magazine, Cave Region Review, The Invisible Bear, HomeWords: A Project of the Kansas Poet Laureate, Kansas Time + Place, Broadsided Press: 2014 Haiku Year in Review, Begin Again: 150 Kansas Poems, and To the Stars through Difficulties: A Kansas Renga in 150 Voices. In 2015, Little Balkans Press published her first book of poetry, While the Kettle’s On. Melissa and her husband, Marc, live in Pittsburg with their dog and several chickens. (www.melissafitejohnson.com)
Melissa says, “I love the mystery in this poem. I was struck mostly by the sweetness of the older brother—how rare, this show of unwavering support for a little sibling, no criticisms or jabs—but then the poem ends with burnt and bruised toys and on the dog’s warning, which the boy ignores. The ending left me with an uneasy feeling, like there was more to this story than we’re allowed to see. I want more—I want a whole series of poems about this family.”