The army ranked him Expert Marksman
But he didn’t like to shoot.
Shot over the heads of some German kids —
Candy stealers — when the war was over,
Shot to scare off some coyotes hounding
Our dog in the field down below the house,
And once when a strange rustling
Disturbed our sleep for the third night in a row
His shot fired into the dark turned up a badger.
Otherwise, the shotgun stood unloaded
In a dark corner of my parents’ closet.
Once a friend’s kid beebee’d down a bird
And my dad told him the whole story
Of that young bird’s life, how just that morning,
That bird was singing, riding the April breezes
Gathering up food for its babies; he went on
Until the kid melted into a blubbering mass.
When his pals took him hunting
He told them he was only along for the ride,
He didn’t believe in killing. But he hefted
The rifle they handed him and aimed
Without thinking toward the rustling brush.
He was the only one to get a deer that trip,
And when he came home he cried, telling about it.
When Bullet was twelve and couldn’t jump
Into the pickup bed, could hardly hobble
Out to greet his master, when his dog smile
Darkened with pain, my father came home
One day, took off his hat but wouldn’t take
His eye off the ground: he just couldn’t stand
To see the dog in pain like that.
Tamara Madison is the author of the chapbook The Belly Remembers, and two full-length volumes of poetry, Wild Domestic and Moraine, all published by Pearl Editions. Her work has appeared in Chiron Review, Your Daily Poem, A Year of Being Here, Nerve Cowboy, the Writer’s Almanac and other publications. She is thrilled to have just retired from teaching English and French in a Los Angeles high school.
Photograph by Max Pixel.