Vox Populi

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Kim Ports Parsons: I Can’t Write a Poem with a Gun

I can’t pick berries with a gun,
can’t protect my fingers from thorns,
or carry the fruit back,
or stir in sugar and spice.
I can’t mix pastry with a gun,
or roll it out, or bake it, or lift
its sweetness to your tongue.

I can’t plant seeds with a gun,
can’t measure the furrow,
or lay each one in its inch of ground.
I can’t hoe any rows with a gun,
or lug the weeds to the compost heap,
or turn the steaming piles, or sift the new
soil, or spread it around the tender shoots.

I can’t chop fresh greens with a gun.
Can’t slice onions or grate garlic
or soak dried red beans, or stir the pot.
I can’t set the table with a gun,
or arrange flowers, or light a candle,
or blow out the smoking match, 
or pull out your chair.

A gun won’t help me to listen
to your story, to see the falling
images as words ricochet around us.
A gun won’t open my heart
to your pain, or help me to extinguish it,
or place my hand on your quaking
shoulder, or wash away any blood.

I can’t make a soft bed with a gun,
or tuck a gun around me for warmth,
or wrap arms around my beloved,
or kiss a cheek, or stroke the cat,
or stretch when I wake, or smell the morning.
I can’t brew coffee with a gun,
or tie the stiff laces of my muddy boots.

When a fox steps lightly into the yard,
and shakes off the dew from the meadow,
and cocks her head, nose quivering, a gun
will not help me to study her, how she seems
to consider, so intently, which way to turn.
How so much might depend upon her choice,
where to next in this fraught, this tantalizing world.


First published in LIVE ENCOUNTERS. Included in Vox Populi by
permission of the author.

Copyright 2022 Kim Port Parsons

An avid reader, gardener, and birdwatcher, Kim Ports Parsons often hikes with 
her husband Doug and hound dog Sadie in nearby Shenandoah National Park. She 
is the author of The Mayapple Forest (Terrapin, 2022).

14 comments on “Kim Ports Parsons: I Can’t Write a Poem with a Gun

  1. Dinah Kudatsky
    March 8, 2023

    Kim: It’s wonderful – you eschew polemics, and simply allow the wise, loving, powerful heart to speak of small, sweet human moments. By contrast, that cold piece of metal has nothing to offer, nothing to say.


  2. Lisa Zimmerman
    March 7, 2023

    I love this poem. LOVE. ❤️


  3. Rosemerry
    March 6, 2023

    thank you. thank you.


  4. Rose Mary Boehm
    March 6, 2023

    Yes, yes, and yes. Terrific poem.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Bravo.
    Great positioning of life and guns.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Robbi Nester
    March 6, 2023

    Eloquent comment on the choices we must make in this world.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Sean Sexton
    March 6, 2023

    I had to euthanize an old, blind Angus matron in the old Cow Museum last week, and then read the poem that mentioned her, in my Lenten Poetry and Organ concert an hour later in church. Its an old 30-30. Carbine, practically a farm implement a neighbor and friend who was a hunter and woodsman and oddly enough, just died, brought to me after my father’s .38 pistol (used always and only for this) 28 years ago, had been stolen from his house. The rifle stays hidden high in my closet on a pair of hooks, the cartridges in a box on the shelf and every once in 20 years i have to take it out, load it, and do something like this when my son is away (for he’s the one who knows about and carries guns.) He is licensed and careful, has small children and keeps his guns locked in a safe). But the world and how the gun changes it as on that morning I shot the cow last week before the reading takes my breath and ruins my thoughts.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Vox Populi
      March 6, 2023

      I’m so sorry you had to go through this, Sean. I’ve euthanized horses, and been present when others did so as well. It’s not an experience to be taken lightly or forgotten easily. Bless you.


      Liked by 2 people

      • Sean Sexton
        March 6, 2023

        The thing that’s no damn good one has to do on occasion. She was no longer of this world and needed help out of it!

        Liked by 2 people

    • kimportsparsons
      March 6, 2023

      I’m so sorry for your sad and difficult experience, Sean. Peace to you.

      Liked by 1 person

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