Black Magic Gun

Here, in 1970, draft papers
in hand, my father’s father begged
the trigger of a .22 to blast
a small piece of his son’s foot
into the hillside so he would not leave
the mountains to fight jungle communists.
My father. His father. The gun.
Gun of worn wood and dark metal
on the cusp of rust, cocked to save
a life. Barrel like a Roman candle
held by a bare-handed child and aimed
at the July moon, small, dauntless cannon.
Feel the fireball leave the chamber, whirling
through fingers, birthed into the empty air
of spark and smoke. By the snowball bush,
blossom-laden, bent within earshot
of my grandfather’s scheme
to save his eldest son from war,
from letters sent home striped
by the censor in oceanic apathy,
from needles bent on boy arms
like hornets, and sacks of smoking
mail, soaking in Asian mud,
he begged the gun to free itself
from his son’s naïve valor and change
the scene in one pull.
You might not know this:
Sometimes guns help desperate people
change their lives, and an unpulled
trigger is not always merciful,
stuck in the safety. The gun
hung in my father’s hand
like a black hair ribbon,
soft and unsparing.

Shawna Kay Rodenberg holds an MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars. She is an English Lecturer at Big Sandy Community and Technical College in Pikeville, Kentucky. Her poems have appeared in New Millennium Writings, Structo, drafthorse, Kudzu, and Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel, and her reviews and essays have appeared in Consequence, Salon and the Village Voice. In 2017 Rodenberg received a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writer’s Award.

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