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Something Close To Happiness – Deborah Keenan

Something Close To Happiness

for David Oppegaard, a collaboration with his short story, The Treat

The killer decides he loves living during a pandemic~~~
So much death decorating the cemeteries, the hospitals,
The back rooms in the homes of the poor, in all the places
Old people and old soldiers are warehoused,
Passing the days and nights, sad zombies, thinks the killer,
Though the ones who still find ways to sneak out at night to smoke
Touch his calculating heart. 

The killer knows that for him, to feel like a night is holy
He needs to drive the streets in summer, turning
The songs in his ice cream truck down low, so he
Can hear the angry voices coming from open windows,
From the back stoops, from narrow alleys full of discontent,
And worse. 

His crucial instincts guide him. He knows who should
Be killed. He knows so quickly he astounds even himself. 

Something close to happiness, as he chooses, acts.
Something close to happiness because he knows his truck
Is always loaded with benign ice cream treats in the coolers
To the left, poisoned treats to the right.
Something close to happiness as he murders to free children
From horror stories they live in private hells of their homes. 

On a good night, a hot night,
He can hear the bodies fall. 

Anywhere else in the world, maybe, he would be caught,
But this is America, where your wildest dreams of murders
Come true, and you can drive your ice cream truck forever,
You can play Christian hymns and carols and people
Smile, and wave, and pull out their money. 


Deborah Keenan is the author of ten collections of poetry and a book of writing ideas, from tiger to prayer. This particular poem was inspired by a wild and scary story by author David Oppegaard. A teacher in the MFA program at Hamline University for thirty years, she continues to teach for The Loft, and privately. Keenan lives in beautiful, mysterious St. Paul at the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers.  

Photo: “Ice Cream Truck” by Midnight Believer