You gave me a ride when I was lost
in Wyoming. Took me to your home.
Showed me your gun collection
you had to go shoulder-deep through
the clothes in the closet to reach.
They were old and unloaded, you told me,
and you didn’t shoot them anymore,
just oiled them and kept them perfectly
clean. I was careful not to flinch
as I watched the double-barrel raise
and train on my face. The tooth hole
you flashed in the grin after.
The spasm in your hands as you swung
the gun and pointed it at yourself
to show evenness. You told me
about doing five years for murder,
asked if I would’ve done anything
different, finding a grown man
raping my six-year-old niece.
I wouldn’t change it, you said.
I wouldn’t take it back. You patted
your heart with your hand.
Family is family, you whispered,
as you brought me clean sheets for my bed.
Reprinted from The Low Passions by Anders Carlson-Wee. Copyright (c) 2019 by Anders Carlson-Wee. Used with permission of the publisher, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. All rights reserved.