I’m still reading Bullets into Bells, the anthology about gun violence. It’s a remarkable collection. On Saturday we had a local town hall to follow up on the students’ march against gun violence. I realized we think about it almost entirely in terms of the mass events–but every gun death creates a circle of trauma, as this poem explores.
How My Mother Died
My father shook the gun to get the bullet out.
He was a careless man, but only once.
I shouldn’t linger on this, the road rising out of itself,
my father out on Pine Street in the dark,
down on all fours trying to open up his face
with gravel, trying to get down to the tar
of what went wrong by making blood again.
They find him there in a dream of twigs
thrashing in the heat, every stitch of light withheld.
Jesus of the ordinary prayer,
lay my father down on a bed of straw
and let him bleed his way to light.
Give him one sweet hour of oblivion,
for all of us. He’s out there groveling
in the glare of suspicion, burrowing into the deep
red pit where the lowest sounds are made.
He’s borrowed his life from brambles that wait to burn.
I know the dirt won’t hide our family,
and the sun’s intensity won’t take root in the sky,
make truth a thing we all can see.
So let my father drift away from here
holding your brown feet.
Stir your crown of glory into his bleary eyes and sing
the untroubled prayer, the warm treason of innocence.
Ready us both for the undoing
that can’t, for the life of him, be undone.
Tara Bray, from Mistaken for Song
reprinted in Bullets into Bells: Poets a & Citizens Respond to Gun Violence
edited by Brian Clements, Alexandra Teague, an Dean Rader