Gun Show



The “mamaluke lived above the no-slice

pizza joint with his Mama.


He kept a flimsy life-

sized poster from the range

beside the register near the kitchen.

It bore an outline of some “cock-

sucker” Arab of his imagining.  


Concentric orbits and a hole

where the “towel-head’s” heart would have been.


That perforated sheet made Mama’s ‘little light’

feel like a man.



One military buff I know never served.

He just loves his guns.


It’s hard when your dreams get shot

to shit.



My dream was to take a shot

at art. Sure there are holes,

but never where the heart

is supposed to be.

Where the heart is

supposed to be, a heart is.



When I was 20, the hottest Latino imaginable,

a dimpled, gym-jacked, black-haired looker from Parkchester

invited me to “escort” him to “a function.”


He wanted to try a “college girl.”

He had come to the right place.


Shimmering and sharp, we had not been long at the banquet

when an altercation ensued. Expletives rang out, gave way

to a sequence of shoves. Julio scooped up his gym bag

from beneath the buffet table where he’d stashed it.


Simmering with suspension and solemnity he unzipped his

duffel, glared at the object of his fury,

stopped to look into my eyes a sorry but fuck-

the-world-I-want to-get-off/

live-fast-die-young-this-is-who I am fervor

and withdrew

from its white terrycloth swaddle

and produced his undraped




A lot of men are drawn to shotguns and rifles and hand-

guns because they want bigger sex organs.



I suspect my best girlfriend from the plaid years

was content with the dimensions of her sex organs

after 1985, she never went anywhere

without a fire-

arm, a princess revolver, her off-

duty weapon. It had a Mother

of Pearl handle. It was the perfect heat

for a stylish bad-ass lady

cop to pack.


We could go anywhere drinking in Brooklyn

night with that baby nestled in its holster right

up against the metrics of her heart.



My husband used to worry when I went to teach in the projects.

I never worried. I belonged there.


I never packed a gat, but I packed a punch.

When push came to shove, I could hightail it like a rabbit.         

There, in the chambers

and halls of that child-

masticating hell-

I fell in love with my charges.


Two years later, one got shot while sitting on his bed.

I read in the Daily News that


                          the bullet came through the wall

                                    out of nowhere

and killed him at 14 where


                           he lived and breathed

with his sister and Moms.



Once, in Detroit, a thug stuck the muzzle of a pistol

up against the temple

of the man who later became

the father of my children,

then commanded him to lie down face-down

on the sidewalk and empty his pockets. 


Years later he floated

in a fleeting way

the idea of procuring a rod.


“I don't think so, Dear.

In that case, it would be me or the gat."



“Say hello to my little friend.”



Funny how fear of dying by the “gun of the hand,”

as the Amish call them, begets yearning for a peace-

keeping piece.



At my holiday party, a soft-speaking poet and I discussed fire-

arms. He spoke of remembering how

the men in his family, each black like him,

used to lay their weapons down, at the sides

of their plates, like flatware, at picnics.


“As long as the cops have them…”



“Protection,” Julio said. 

“I wasn’t going to use it. I just wanted to scare him.”


Julio called again but our romance was over before it started.



When they were 10, 8 and 7 my three brothers used to drag

a dining room chair into the Master Bedroom

in order retrieve the .38 on the top closet shelf.


My father kept the bullets elsewhere,

but the boys were one step ahead of him

and knew where to find the little cock-

shaped lead. They enjoyed loading and unloading

the six barrels clandestinely

when our parents were gone. 



My father did not like having to wear his handgun everywhere

all the time. (This may be what I liked most about him.)

It was an occupational hazard.

Sometimes after a night of drinking the paycheck,

he’d wave it around.


We are lucky none of us died of it

like those families we read about in the Daily News.



He had been a machine-gunner in Korea.

God knows how many...


I suspect that’s what ruined him.