Vox Populi

A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature

Michael T. Young: The Gun Gospels

I

Litany

 

Let the congregation reply—

raise your hands, cry and plead

as we praise the holy names:

Bushmaster, Smith & Wesson,

Hi-Point, Remington.

 

But you misunderstand this mystery.

In your poverty, you don’t see how I am

your forgiveness of yourselves,

for now and every other time:

Newtown, Columbine, Aurora.

 

I am resurrected from the smell of gunpowder.

Celebrate my crucifixion

in the crosshairs on another campus.

Recite my name with the saints of aftermath,

celebrate my magic.

 

When all lie down to sleep, I am

the name history books will repeat.

I will take to myself your children,

your grandchildren. Under tables,

in closets, be at peace. I’m coming.

 

 

II

Conversion Confession

 

Yes, I believe the magnum can save me.

I believe the 16-round clip is one

of the five promises of God.

 

When angels sing, they stand in magazines,

and their voices explode with praise,

scorching wind with the burn.

 

Gunpowder is a cardinal truth and only

heretics don’t know the difference

between handguns and pistols.

 

Yes, I believe blowback resurrects

the divine power of the shot

and that breathes life.

 

Yes, God promises an ever-increasing cycle rate,

and on the day of true believers

all guns will be automatic.

 

Yes, I believe the right of all to be born

fully armed, loaded and without need

for license. I believe in the bullet.

 

 

III

 

Images of Civil War

 

Lights beat red in a Florida nightclub.

Everyone’s skin pulses and bursts. Even

your eyes here with me, miles away.

 

My heart sinks in Florida grasslands.

I forget the Colorado mountains, but hear

guns in a theater explode. Gun smoke

 

mingles with the smell of popcorn. Memory

drowns in Crater Lake and I forget

pens and books on the desks, thinking

 

only of the click of a magazine loaded,

then unloaded. Shell casings clatter by open

lockers. We are weary of this ritual, weary

 

of its repetition, bodies falling in schools,

in malls, outside homes. Neighbor rages against

neighbor, beaten bloody on his own front lawn.

 

 

IV

The Poet as Atheist in a Land of Gun Worship

 

Every word I would sing bursts

into gunfire. Every image of beauty—

bleeding heart, bark of white ash,

a skyscraper flashing its ice towers

in winter sun—each one and its truth

melts into a rain of bullets.

 

Each wound opens into a hall

full of the dead and their voices,

their bodies, the stairs we climb,

passing through an incense of gun smoke,

to kneel and look down

the barrel of our country’s altar.

 

There are no words for this ritual.

There is only the trigger, the magazine,

the feel of the grip, the heft.

Every image that might console

is in the crosshairs—

our pens hemorrhaging.


 

Copyright 2018 Michael T. Young

Michael T. Young is the author of the collections The Beautiful Moment of Being Lost published by Poets Wear Prada and The Infinite Doctrine of Water published by Terrapin Books.

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This entry was posted on February 2, 2018 by in Poetry, Social Justice and tagged , .
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