» Poetry

Three Poems


Ten days later, after the mandatory

state waiting period, I pick up my gun.

The dealer gives me shit, says I didn’t bring

the right kind of second i.d. “A gas bill,”

he says, as if I’m stupid, “an electric bill,”

or a “house cable bill. Nothing else.

Repeat it.” I repeat it like a jackass.

My wife emails me the cable bill and he

still won’t accept it. Ambles to the back

to ask the owner. At this point, I know

he has it in for me. Something he doesn’t

like—I’d bet it was my wife having to

help me. I sniffed the misogyny on him.

Finally, his boss says it’s a go and he

halfheartedly slides the sword-silver box

to me, my dummy rounds, my box of ammo.

I’m thinking people like the gun dealer

are the reason I’m walking out of the store

with my new gun, a Beretta PX4 Storm,

people, who for no reason gave me shit.

People who just knew they could and so

they did. But it’s mine now, and more,

my gun-hating wife helped me buy it.

I place the bag, as if it were groceries,

in my trunk, merge into traffic, relieved.


Lane Nine

I never shoot on weekends, always on weekday afternoons.

It’s too busy on Saturdays, and busy at the range means

danger—at least to me: the slim, pretty girl on a date

who has the “shakes,” the worker warning her, “I can’t let you shoot

unless you calm down, okay?” She says she’s okay, looks back

at me because I’m staring. I am staring because I’m evaluating.

She can’t stop laughing. Her date is a clueless hipster

who had asked the worker earlier if he could he plug in his cellphone.

The worker said no. The hipster was lucky he hadn’t asked

one of the meaner workers; “lucky bastard” I think. I’ve

faced down the mean ones before, who made you feel stupid

for asking something basic about guns. But this guy was young

and cool and his girl was hot, so I guess he can get away

with appearing detached. His date continues to laugh.

She’d laugh even in the range; I’d later hear her through

my earmuffs. But until then, I wait and watch the large

Filipino family come in and take a lane. I hear them plan

a pig-hunting trip and a visit to Arizona to buy more guns.

They’d also laugh really hard inside the range. I look at the boy

with his father, a blonde boy, like my own son. No more than

ten; the youngest they allow. I’m thinking of bringing my

own son in. So I watch the boy who seems very relaxed.

I want my son to stop playing video games. I don’t want him

to turn into a man who loves video games, a man who can’t

tell the difference between the screen and real life, a man

who needs to ask where he can plug his cellphone in

at a gun range. At last, I get my lane: #9. I shoot three

boxes of ammo. My hands feel unsteady. I am nervous around

so many flaky people, but if shooting teaches you one thing

it’s how to ignore the world, how to violently separate

yourself from others—not in the literal sense of course,

but in a spiritual plane. Number nine is my lane.



Novices go hunting

in the lining of true pockets,

the airplanes that breathe air

like human beings, if you know

enough, the copier flies American,

instinctually like a big bear

in the sky. Imagine that. Silently,

the stars make acquaintances;

they’re also new to the job.

And I do remember 1980

as a child, a young child.

The smell of my aunt’s Gremlin,

that hot, plastic scent of the

interior and the exhaust,

the thin palm trees that swayed.

Even then, always ruminating.

The smallish plot already

developing. And why should

it bother me? The inch-like

presence? No moon-landing

for me. No moon-lander. I guess

with every gun there’s an assault.

But this isn’t turning violent,

I have my dog with me

tonight, the kids gone, so why

write about that? The people

down the street have good

skulls, the people further

down the street have ugly

hearts. You can sense that

type of thing. Maybe it’s their

big ass house with no one in it.

Maybe it’s the fact I once

saw two tie-wearing men

playing b-ball in their front yard.

That type of thing doesn’t

make for close neighbors.

Alejandro Escudé

Alejandro Escudé is an Argentinean-American poet and high school teacher. He is the winner of the 2012 Sacramento Poetry Center Award for “My Earthbound Eye.” He received a master’s degree in creative writing from UC Davis and, among other journals, his poems have appeared in Phoebe, Poet Lore, and Rattle. Originally from Córdoba, Argentina, he lives with his wife and two kids in Los Angeles, California.