American Enfield by Wesley Rothman

for Medgar Evers

How thirty calibers ricochet
from a rib. You stood sturdy
with the bones to match. How
the recoil of that rifle punched
and how through-and-through
you the projectile learned
anatomy, its soft resilience.
A bone’s retaliation. Box
the round. Send it soaring.
Bruise its lead complexion
out the flesh and through
the window as it busts open
collateral damage—a ceramic
German Shepherd. It took you
and the dog down. But not without
some grit, some final steps
for freedom. Who’s to say
you ever bar fought? Shot
pool, knew the perfect angle
for a corner-pocket combo?
You crouch-ran through
occupied France, drove out
the swastika. All with
a standard issue rifle
fired on command
rounds streaking twilight
with fire, lightning throughand-
through shoulders, thighs,
the lines of an enemy. How they
must have rebounded. Bounced
around the pinball machines
of ribcages and woodlands.
Ballistic bodies changing
with heat and pressure. Interference.
History’s dark ricochet.


Wesley Rothman’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in 32 Poems, Crab Orchard Review, Drunken Boat, Harpur Palate, PANK, The Rumpus, Thrush, and Vinyl among others. He has worked with Copper Canyon Press, Ploughshares, Narrative, and Salamander, and teaches writing and cultural literatures at Emerson College and Suffolk University.