Street Poems

William Keckler
2 min readFeb 2, 2023


Photo credit: Pexels


“He shot me cuz I said hello!”
The ghost kept pantomiming this story
for me. I knew not to see this wound,
the phantom, its mouth which was opening
to a blood abyss. A pity trap with those jagged
metal jaws set. The eyes are the windows
to the eternal slide in the amusement park
where the soul is a child with a gun
whose parents have escaped to new hells.
But someone’s gonna pay and real soon
for leaving him here, a baby in bloody swaddling.
Part of me explodes, a grenade of Christmas presents
this poor kid never got. The rest clenches
everything clenchable on my body.


Want to come over tonight
and listen to some nightingales?
They start up with the blue and red lights
strobing off the neighbors’ houses.
They chirp a song of otherworldly beauty
until the crying kids come screaming
out of the house, down the concrete steps,
blood not yet dry on their wifebeaters:
“Liar! Liar!” And the cops do their lambada,
cuffing them against the squad car
and the ode is suddenly over.


I think he enjoyed the sweetness
of being no one sitting there
in that bus kiosk, all four seasons.
He’d close his eyes in bliss
and had those headphones.
Then someone shot him,
almost certainly for no reason
except his just being there
which today makes you the ultimate target.
Then he reluctantly became a name
and a series of soundbite stories
on the local news for an evening
which I just know he would have hated.
He loved being the town ghost
and now he is. The birds
he always fed bits of his sandwich moved on
to somewhere else just slightly safer
than bullets:: : other birds.



William Keckler

Writer, visual artist. Books include Sanskrit of the Body, which won in the U.S. National Poetry Series (Penguin).