Poem for gun lovers

Nothing that could be done

I remember my first paper cut,

when I was just four years old,

I went to the school nurse

for some kind of care, maybe just a band-aid

or the warm reassuring smile

of an adult who understood the world,

but instead she said, with her face so grim,

there’s just nothing to be done.

Let it bleed, she told me,

these things heal themselves.

And I looked at the red drops

like breadcrumbs shining

my way back to class,

stark constellations so bold and dark

against the sterile white tile,

and I believed her.


Again, in middle school, I fell,

my hands still stinking of rust and steel

from gripping swing set chains so tight

the links left white indentations

in my palms that flamed red upon release,

and the sound of my wrist snapping

was that of a dried twig

under the foot of a careless hunter

spooking away his prey.

My mother took me to the doctor

where they didn’t even bother with an X-ray,

just again with their go-to phrase,

Nothing to be done, broken bones mend

with time and the soothing song of the wind,

so the rest of my life I lived

with a crooked arm I could not use

except as a crude tool for propping up my face,

but my belief in medicine remained unchanged.


I sat at my mother’s bedside

and listened to the way her lungs

struggled like refugee swimmers

whose life vests were made

to absorb the ocean instead of float,

and I pleaded to the specialists,

I pleaded to the surgeons

with their walls full of degrees,

their photo albums full

of pristine family portraits

with every grin warm as a sun

meant to go on for endless days,

their manicured hands perfect

and poised as if penmanship

were their own secret language

of prayer, as if it were a privilege

to hold a clipboard and scribble fates

so different from their own,

and they said it again and again

like the mantra of the damned,

I’m sorry son, cancer is just a gun,

and I’m afraid there’s simply nothing,

nothing to be done. 

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