Juliana Gray

My Father’s Gun

Caliber, I couldn’t say,

nor make or model, nor how the grip

settled snug against the palm—

only its ugliness, dark

and squat as a poisonous toad.


Even Dad didn’t want it;

holding it, he wore a look

of faint disgust, as if he wished

he were wearing gloves—the face of a man

collecting a dog’s steaming pile.


A gift, a thing unwanted, yet

set aside just in case.

He tucked it underneath his seat

on long car trips.  Just in case?

Of what?  The Misfit?  You never know.


Who gave the gun?  His stepfather?

That man who later killed his wife,

my grandmother—shot her, in fact,

and two others—then died in prison,

as my mother often prayed he would?


Can that be right?  Who is left to ask?

Clock hands swing like teachers’ arms

erasing chalk.  I was a child,

learning, studying the gun

in its drawer, when no one else was home.



“My Father’s Gun” is from Honeymoon Palsy (Measure Press, 2017).