Juan Luis Guzmán – TRIGGER

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. 

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