Editor’s note: for mobile users, this poem is best viewed in landscape mode.
Juan Luis Guzmán
I’m six years old the first time
I shoot a gun, my father and brothers
with me, we walk inside the dry mouth
of the Kings River looking for the right place
to do it. Scared that tides will sneak up suddenly
and drown us for trespassing, I watch flecks of pyrite
glimmer in our surround while they take turns testing
the new gun against an embankment wall. I do not go near
them. I carry on alongside until my father says come here, boy
and the gun is in my hands, and I can feel him steady me to lift it.
When I pull it, I fall hard—too weak for the recoil of the .357
Magnum—and find sand, granulated and soft as powder.
I’m filled with the resonance of the blast all the way
to the driveway back home. Lying in the bed
of our pick-up, deafened, my arm like rubber,
I know what they say about me inside
the single cab of the truck while clouds
move in my head, loudly at first,
then hushed, until they are too
far away to make any
sound at all.