Death factories : NaPoWriMo #19

Life in a firearm factory

America the assembly line
of machined metal and mechanized death,
the safety-goggled eyes and oily hands
wiped on aprons like butchers
in a meat shop, the tiny screwdrivers,
etching tools, and the steadfast resolve
of building that which built a nation with death.

Inspected for quality, inspected for failure rate,
inspected for accuracy, inspected for safety,
each weapon fired at least forty times
past the door that forbids loaded firearms
of any kind, except the ones made inside,
hand-crafted and precision-assured,
checked to insure deliverance
is an unimpeded death.

The workers file in six days a week,
they punch their time cards
and sip their coffee from stainless steel,
they store lunches of sandwiches
wrapped in plastic and potato chip bags
in latched boxes in lockers,
they watch the clock just like you,
counting the minutes until shift’s end,
those hours between themselves
and the faces of their husbands and wives,
the welcome comfort of clean sheets and a pillow,
the warmth of a lover’s body
next to them at night, a sleep-weighted arm
draped over their waist like waiting death.

It’s a job like any other job,
except in the ways it isn’t,
each weapon cleared for shipment
a potential murder or guaranteed tool of war,
a serial number traced by the ATF or the FBI,
another statistic measured and cited
on the nightly news alongside images
of their week’s work with death.

This pistol stopped a robbery,
this pistol was used in a robbery,
this pistol shot a single mother,
this pistol was fired by that single mother’s son,
this rifle held off insurgents,
this rifle was used by an insurgent,
this rifle took 17 lives, took 22 lives,
took 26 lives, took 42 lives,
in Texas, in Florida, in Connecticut, in Nevada,
this rifle did just what is was supposed to do,
I built it, inspected it, went over every millimeter
before sending it out into the world
like a parent hoping the best
for his children with death,
and this is the right of every American.

Poem for Anthony Borges : NaPoWriMo #12

Between Death and a Door
~for Anthony Borges

Death doesn’t knock upon the door,
it demands to be let through,
but there are those who refuse to listen.

These seconds seem small
waiting to die, nothing between the end
and the now except this barricade
of flesh leaned against hard wood
and heartbeats pushing blood
out of the body and onto the floor.

This act is selfless, to stand
in defense of the helpless,
to feel an entire existence
kept in the balance
while something faceless
sends its bullets ripping
with white noise and white flashes
through muscle, through lung,
through sound shattered bone.

Five strikes of the iron bell
to stave off twenty more,
five ear-splitting bangs
of skeletal fist pounding
against one shaking frame,
five brushes of bony fingers
against tear-streaked cheeks,
a world condensed down
to the scent of cauterized skin,
to the sound of shrieks,
to the sensation of breath
as a dissipating echo
in the mind.

And when you wake up
in the hospital bed,
your body feels less than your own,
a host of surgical scars
and open wounds no suture can close,
you hear them call you hero,
but you know it isn’t so
you just did what had to be done,
and now, just want to be left alone,
to heal, to feel time return itself
back to that steady second hand
where every tick of the clock
isn’t another triggered gunshot.

Death doesn’t knock upon the door,
it demands to be let through,
but you, you refused to listen.

NaPoWriMo Poem 5, Gun pastoral

Second Amendment Pastoral

If guns grew on trees much green would be gone
from the world, replaced with gunmetal gray,
perhaps a pink camo dogwood here or there,
the rest turned reflective and dark,
like American hearts.

The hills would become congregations
of slouching, heavy boughs
cloaked in deathly funeral-like robes,
a procession of morose ghouls
producing their yearly harvests
of yet more life-taking tools.

How long before the weapons
outnumber the souls, outnumber
the blades of grass in the yards,
outnumber the stars?
And yet, the hands reach up
for such deadly fruit,
just to feel something colder
than the memory of a mother
with black opioid eyes.

Is this the utopia we deserve,
land of breath by Russian roulette,
land of nitroglycerin smoke,
black residue left on the fingers
of the firing trigger fist,
land of forests where the wind
through the limbs
sounds like a chorus
of haunted pitch pipe barrels
whistling in the key of apathy.

If guns grew on trees, we’d tell the children
not to climb them, to build their play houses
in the graveyards instead,
just to shorten the distance
between growing up and playing dead.

Gun violence poem NaPoWriMo #3

A gun speaks

Find me saddled and snug
against the warmth of a woman’t thigh,
on the inside, tucked into a garter.
Find me hidden beneath socks
and loosely spilled ties
in a bedside table, or squeezed
between a mattress and box springs.

There’s nothing I like more
than being cradled
in a palm, cruel and callous,
not sweaty at all,
ready to deal out death
the way I spit out smoking shells
like teeth from a street boxer’s mouth.

Find me on a hustler’s hip,
on a policeman’s hip,
on the top shelf of a lawyer’s closet
or the back glass of a redneck’s Ford.
Find me under the gas station counter,
under the driver’s seat of a war vet,
under the pillow of a man who can’t sleep.

I’m here, never more than a reach away,
never more than a moment
between the deep breath
and a thumb on the safety switch
between the silence and the sharp calamity
of a split-second decision,
an exit wound the size of infinity.

Find me loaded, always loaded,
in the seconds that speak like bells
like air raid sirens of the heart
like 911 calls where the operator shouts
“Slow down! Slow down! Try to stay calm,
help is on the way.”

Find me fingerprint clad,
blood spatter like liquid veil,
discarded or still vaguely grasped
in the limp hand of a child,
of a broken thing,
of a moment once fulfilled
that can never be undone.

Funeral

Funeral for a firearm

We’ve had a funeral for facts,
an unceremonious good-bye
to ways of measured truth
like lives held in teaspoons.

We’ve had a funeral for children,
a self-fulfilling prophecy
of profits killing kids over and over again
and politicians cashing the checks.

We’ve had funerals for friends
from work, from class, from church,
from the naval yard, from everywhere USA
where people carry death like spare change.

We’ve had a funeral for democracy,
electing stars of reality TV to play their roles
in high-back leather chairs
while leaving bloody fingerprints on every door.

We’ve had a funeral for decency,
choosing comfort food over truth
to keep a small, singular orbit
of revolving warmth inside such fragile cells.

We’ve had funerals for our selves,
sleeping with enemies under our pillows,
sleeping with enemies under our skins,
choosing to exist inside a currency of sins.

These illusions are self-evident,
to those with eyes open wide,
we’ve spent less time mourning these lives
than worshiping the source of the crimes.