“Light Fuse And Retire Quickly,” by Patrick Ritter

Aug 20th, 2017 | By | Category: Poetry

All pyros know
the instructions on Black Cat firecrackers:
Light fuse and retire quickly.
I should have lived my life like that.

Light the fuse in adolescence.
Live a wild and reckless adventure.
Explode as many myths as legally possible.
Push the envelope, and more.
Hit all the highs and the lows.

Settle into normalcy
for a while.
Play your part.
Pay the mortgage.

But then
when you finally do retire,
light that fuse one more time.

Do it in the middle of an important meeting,
while your control-freak boss
demands, blames, self-justifies,
the pompous ass he is.
Time the explosion just right,
while he’s in mid pontification:

You arrogant and insignificant loser, I am done.
I am retiring from your tyranny.

Then pull out your roll of Black Cat firecrackers,
the one you’ve saved for this,
the five hundred fingered roll
of red tissue, silver dust and hope.

Brandish it.
See the moment turn
from surprise to confusion to terror.

Light it, and quickly retire
to the elevator.
Laughing all the way down,
where security police are waiting.

They will understand.
They will form an escort.


Patrick Ritter grew up on a small lake in Wisconsin. On the Fourth of July, fireworks were not only allowed, but encouraged. This was obviously fantastic for young boys, but also great for fire departments around the state that drew holiday pay for various conflagrations. In 1974 he went to California for the summer and never left. Because of the dry summers, fireworks are, unfortunately, left to the municipalities. Patrick wants to give special thanks to his brother Jack and his great poem Blowing Up Things, which gave Patrick the inspiration for “Light Fuse And Retire Quickly.”

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