The Lottery, 1971

My cousin guessed
you didn’t feel a grenade
or a mine explode,
“felt nothing forever.”

But if a deadly number
wasn’t picked from
the big glass jar,
he’d live twice.

His parents wanted him
to settle down,
a wife, kids,
scarf in a steel mill.

But what was he going
to “settle down from?”

He’d played football,
been voted “most
popular,” only dated nice girls.

And why did he need,
at his age, a little house,
little kids running wild?

He wanted to live like
those guys in the movie,
the one we saw at the drive-in.

He’d never ridden a Harley
to Mardi Gras, “did it”
with a hooker in
a cemetery.

And what was wrong
with smoking a “little pot,
maybe a lot?”

He’d smoke it and let his hair
grow long, turn
into someone
not even his friends,
his own people knew.

William Miller is a widely-published poet and children’s author. His poems have appeared in many journals, including Prairie Schooner, West Branch and Verse. He lives in the French Quarter of New Orleans.

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