My Father’s Gun by Juliana Gray

[You can read CM Burroughs introduction to Juliana Gray’s poems here.]


Caliber, I couldn’t say,

nor make or model, nor how the grip

settled snug against the palm–

only its ugliness, dark

and squat as a poisonous toad.


Even Dad didn’t want it;

holding it, he wore a look

of faint disgust, as if he wished

he were wearing gloves– the face of a man

collecting his dog’s steaming shit.


A gift, a thing unwanted, yet

set aside just in case.

He tucked it underneath his seat

on long car trips.  Just in case?

Of what?  The Misfit?  You never know.


Who gave the gun?  His stepfather?

That man who later killed his wife,

my grandmother– shot her, in fact,

and two others– then died in prison,

as my mother often prayed he would?


Can that be right?  Who is left to ask?

Clock hands swing like teachers’ arms

erasing chalk.  I was a child,

peeping in the drawer, studying

the gun when no one else was home.



Juliana Gray is the author of Roleplay, which won the Dream Horse Press 2010 Orphic Prize, and the forthcoming chapbook Anne Boleyn’s Sleeve. Recent poems have appeared in or are forthcoming from PMS: poemmemoirstory, Measure, 32 Poems, River Styx. An Alabama native, she teaches at Alfred University in western New York.