O what is that sound—a shot in the night?

       Down in South L.A., a shot, then a round?

Only the cops, practicing for a fight,

The cops, clowning around.


O what is that shadow I see—just the toes—

       next to the dumpster, that look so cold?

Only the trash, my dear, an old pair of hose,

twisted, dirty, covered with mold.


O why are these women being murdered again?

       Why are these women now dead in a ditch?

All those years, my dear, then a shift in the brain,

some kind of desperate, terrible itch.


Why haven’t they arrested the neighbor?

Why haven’t they sent out an alert?

Why do none of them use a lie detector?

Why are none of them experts?


O is it the white dude they want,

       is it the white dude? Is it?

No, the white dude’s run off to Vermont,

my dear, and the judge can’t issue a writ.


O it must be the coked-up cop caught with a prostitute

       though he died before the new murders began—

That will be a bit hard to prosecute.

Now they think it’s a married man.


O what are they doing with our son’s DNA

       what are they doing with their chemistry?

Only the usual, dear, for the catch-of-the-day,

or perhaps they’re hoping for efficiency.


O where are you going now? Stay with me here.

       Were the vows you made out of nothing?

It seems I’m not such a good liar, dear,

I must be leaving.


O our lock’s broken, the door is smashed,

O the intercom’s screeching, screeching.

They throw our grandkid’s toys in the trash,

and their eyes are burning.

Terese Svoboda is the author of Weapons Grade, a book of poems.

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