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Gun Lit: My Mother Contemplating Her Gun

Revolver by Pearson Scott Foresman

Illustration by Pearson Scott Foresman

Today’s Poem of the Day from the Poetry Foundation has remained in my mind since it appeared in my inbox this morning.

Nick Flynn’s “My Mother Contemplating Her Gun” evokes some powerful and pertinent impressions of the role of firearms in our lives — guns as objects to be feared and to ward off fear, the marvel that such a small thing as a bullet can unmake a person.

And there’s something else here, too, that I can’t quite name but continues to resonate. Something to do with agency and mortality. I’ll have to mull it over.

My Mother Contemplating Her Gun
By Nick Flynn

One boyfriend said to keep the bullets

locked in a different room.
                                    Another urged
            clean it
or it could explode. Larry
thought I should keep it loaded
under my bed,
                     you never know.
            I bought it
when I didn’t feel safe. The barrel
                         is oily,
             reflective, the steel
pure, pulled from a hole
                      in West Virginia. It
could have been cast into anything, nails
along the carpenter’s lip, the ladder
to balance the train. Look at this, one
                        bullet,
                        how almost nothing it is—
             saltpeter   sulphur   lead   Hell
burns sulphur, a smell like this.
                        safety & hammer, barrel & grip
             I don’t know what I believe.
I remember the woods behind my father’s house
          horses beside the quarry
stolen cars lost in the deepest wells,
the water below
            an ink waiting to fill me.
                      Outside a towel hangs from a cold line
            a sheet of iron in the sky
            roses painted on it, blue roses.
Tomorrow it will still be there.

“My Mother Contemplating Her Gun” © 2000 Nick Flynn. Reprinted from Some Ether with the permission of Graywolf Press, St Paul, Minnesota. Source: Some Ether (Graywolf Press, 2000). via Poetry Foundation

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