Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2019  Vol. 18 No. 1
an online journal of literature and the arts
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Single Shot

I cannot recall which birthday it was,
my ninth or twelfth, when my parents gave me

a single-shot .22—and a sewing machine.
The machine was unwrapped, only a pretty bow

on the closed top of its shiny new cabinet,
purposeless to me as a casket. The rifle

they swaddled in shimmering paper, gave it
a matching bow at the end of what I knew

was a barrel. I had asked for neither.


My father never killed anything I knew about,
and still he kept what had been given to him

as a boy—a shotgun, a rifle or two, all bundled
tight as the old, their thin bodies in thick

bed quilts stored underneath the bed. He taught me
to shoot the way he taught me to swim,

to read, to recite verses from the Bible.


The husband of my youth ate no meat
for twenty years and still he kept loaded

guns leaning in the corners, You never know,
he said. Once he had just gotten out of the shower

and noticed a skunk stumbling into the yard
in full daylight; declaring it rabid, he grabbed

the shotgun, ran naked into the yard to shoot it.
How we laughed at that. When he was drunk,

and there was nothing else, he shot up the sky.  

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