Poetry from NER 42.1 (2021)
but a 400-pound pistol in the bed
of a pickup, welded together from
scrapyard metal & stamped with names
of kids shot & killed near the artist’s home.
Except for all the feathers, dyed
cotton-candy blue & affixed across
its cylinder & grip, wrapping the length
of the barrel with a flourish like a boa
entwining a neck, it might seem like
any other oversized gun. Conversation
Piece, he called it, although the feathers
came later, only after he’d begun driving
south with a plan to haul the sculpture
from Chicago to Atlanta, then back
through Charleston & Sandy Hook.
But when he stopped for gas the first time,
he knew his art had failed when a man
sprinted across the parking lot to say
Goddamn, that’s one badass gun.
Something needed to change. Maybe
the feathers could turn the pistol into
a thing you approached with a question
instead of praise. And if the plumes
now covered some of the names, burying
the elegies hammered into metal,
what choice did he have but to continue
driving through town after town, listening
to the wind’s song whipping across
the wide mouth of the barrel, tending
to the gun now & then from a sack
of feathers he kept in the back seat to use
whenever storms lashed things loose?