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).