Communion   Home                 



What if you were the man selling guns
in the gun shop--let’s say you’re in Chicago--
and another man--some middle-aged
white guy with dark hair, green eyes,
a button-up--asks to see your finest
9mm, the Glock 19, also your top-seller
for this profile. You smell a sale,
and to be frank, your family needs
the commission so you can get your kid
the braces you’ve been waiting to pay for.
You will have to check his license,
but we haven’t gotten that far yet,
and all he’s going to do is see how it feels
in his hands. You know that’s more likely
to get him back, and it’s not like it will
be loaded. Besides you’ve got
cameras and a pump-action shotgun
under the counter for that matter.

What if you were the man walking in
the gun shop--let’s say you’re in Baltimore--
and you’re feeling a bit low because
the doctor says a growth is pressing up
against the button in your brain that
makes you see a giant, black-eyed pig
who follows you around, who if he catches
up with you, will gnaw through
each dire inch of your precious skin.
Your acknowledgment of his presence
has caused a scene in more than one
public venue, and you’re tired of the shame
it brings your family, of the illegitimate fear
that you can’t shake even when folks
are telling you it’s not real, so you’ve
brought a single bullet in your pocket--
and you’ve learned exactly how to fit it
into the empty cartridge of a 9mm pistol
when the other man--your very own likeness
just ten years ago--looks up, smiles,
and brings you whatever furious alloy
you want to hold and meddle with
as long as nothing’s in its chambers,
and you know it will only take a minute
to do it--to end the pig, the fear, the shame
that has taken up residence in your dome,
that you have decided to evict
with the single bullet that has found itself
waiting in the pocket of your trousers,
that will soon do what it was made for
and exact the minor surgery that will
slug you to rest against the linoleum floor.

What if you were the woman coming
to the gun shop after the incident--let’s say
you’re in Atlanta--and you’re there
to tell the story of what happened
with a camera and a microphone
though you have nothing more than
what’s momentary and absurd with
provocation, and you accept this
because your job is to get folks turned on,
tuned in the channel’s high def
dirtbag news about your dirtbag neighbor--
nevermind the possibility that your
attention may very well turn tragedy
into celebrity or prolong suffering,
nevermind the privacy of a human
or a family, the anger of a wife or a son
that might outlast this or that lifetime,
Nevermind pity or sorrow, for just
the instant, just here, just now.

What if you were the one on the couch
seeing the gun shop on the little box screen
that you watch every night at 10pm--
let’s say you are in San Francisco--
and the story just sort of washes over you
because perhaps you have heard such
a story so many times--someone says
something about the husband or brother;
someone brings up the second amendment--
and maybe you’ve seen the store on
27th Street, but neither this, nor any
other tragedy is going to keep you from
doing whatever it is you have given all
your emotions to--maybe it’s your kid,
or the person you share a bed with--
and your getting-up-and-going everyday
has more to do with his or her life than
with your own life or your own fear
or even your ability to feel, and maybe
you know that it doesn’t matter who
you might be in the account, but that
we all make arguments for our own
frightening brand of love which is
not bulletproof but tender, temporary
only as long as we can surrender
what we’ve given our hands to--
making our distance into a song.

Jesse Breite's recent poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Spillway, Crab Orchard Review, Terrain, and Prairie Schooner. His first chapbook, The Knife Collector, was published in 2013, and he is an associate editor for The Good Works Review. He is also librettist for three of Atlanta composer Michael Kurth's scores, which have been performed by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus. Jesse teaches high school English in Atlanta with his wife and son.