Still Life with GunWhen dad worked midnights, mom hid his pistol
in the kitchen in a basket of plastic flowers.
I can get to it, she said, before someone can get in the door.
She kept it by the bed before almost shooting
my father when he came home early without calling.
We joked: sleepwalking could've been her defense,
but something changed after she saw her husband
at gunpoint, something flipped - - - a safety switch - - -
in her head. After I go to bed, will you hide the steak knives
that are on the counter? Afraid she would get up, stab us,
accidentally - - - an article she'd read claimed in a dream-
state the brain remembers where objects are placed.
Years later I asked why she thought the gun was
safer: Wouldn't your mind know it was on the table?
I don't know, she said, maybe I thought the flowers would
distract me. Nobody kills their whole family with daisies.
Poem for Straight Guyswho let me sit with them
on the school bus, saved a seat for me
at lunch, who knew who I was before I did
and didn't care. Invited me to sleepovers - - -
pranked me like one of the guys
all of us sleeping on the floor.
Thanks for not picking me last
for football, even though
I sucked, for passing to me,
high-five - - - no worries - - - if I missed.
Not afraid to undress
where I could see, and, yes,
I looked. Thanks for letting me stare at
what I wanted to stare at,
figuring out how I felt.
Thanks for flexing, wrapping arms
around my neck, making a place
when I needed a place.
Thanks for going shirtless.
--- From Primer
©2016 University of Pittsburgh Press