It Could Have Been Fireworks, by Danielle Bylund

by Jul 7, 2016

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Here in Saint Paul, MN we’ve just weathered a storm. On Tuesday, July 5, a fast moving, surprising thunderstorm hit. It changed the blue sky to black and whipped the trees with a vicious wind. My little house is on high ground. We overlook a small, triangular park and because we face north we can watch as the big storms roll in. Through the enormous branches of our old oak tree my partner and I will often sit with our dog, Tula, and see the oncoming weather. On Tuesday, Tula, who is fearless, sat on the screened in porch, mesmerized by the radical changes in the sky from blue to green to orange to black.

By Wednesday the branches had fallen, we lost a bit of siding, but were relatively unscathed. We had seen fallen trees and we had heard stories of the ruined gardens, the close calls, and the electricity still out. We sat on the porch and felt the cool breeze blow through the screens and felt lucky to have the old oak intact. Because of Independence Day, the firecrackers started up in early evening. Because we live in a quiet neighborhood, tucked away in one of the labyrinthine blocks of Saint Paul, the sound had to travel over railroad tracks and parkways to arrive at our porch.

Falcon Heights falls less than three miles from our front door. It falls less than two miles from the Hamline University campus, where the Water~Stone Review makes its home. Wednesday, while I sat with my dog and the love of my life, feeling grateful and safe, Philando Castile, was shot to death in front of the woman who loved him and the child he fathered. He was shot to death by a police officer. I wish I knew which of the sounds that carried across the railroad tracks and parkways to my porch was the gunshot that killed him. I wish that it had some characteristic that could make it discernible from the fireworks that accompany our Independence Day. I wish that I could take that sound and set it apart from all of the other sounds of the day and point to it and say, “Here is the sound. We have isolated it. Now we can fix its cause.” But I can’t because this sound mingles with all of the others: the house finch that calls constantly for a willing mate, the quiet hum of the highway sounding like a great sea of machinery, the record floating sparkling notes to the street, the neighbor’s happy commentary on the grand summer weather, the thud-thud-thud of my terrified and mourning heart. 

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