after Mark Cox 

The gun my sister’s husband used
to keep her in line back before
she went and killed herself (by accident

or on purpose, I really never knew)
was small, nickel plated, and cheap.
Why would it have to be anything else?

And, I shouldn’t say was, because
guns are one of those accessories
that never really fall out of style,

passed along from one owner to the next,
no one but a criminal throws their gun away.
Anyhow, he pointed it at me once, just

for fun. We were on his couch, both of us,
getting to know one another a little better.
He talked and then I talked. We were having

a nice time. He talked, and then
while I talked, a dark aperture,
narrow as the pale erasure

on the end of a No. 2 pencil,
appeared before me, and so I laughed.
It was like I had expected him to do

just what he had done: apropos of nothing,
reach into the crevasse between his oversized
couch cushions, produce a subcompact

handgun and point it at me. Was it loaded
or not loaded? I didn’t know! And so,
yes, I laughed: ha-ha. It was a joke, do you see?

And he laughed, too: ha-ha. I laughed
and he laughed, and then, we both
stopped laughing, and then, still smiling—click!

he pulled the trigger.


Caleb Curtiss is the author of A Taxonomy of the Space Between Us, which won the Black River Chapbook Competition. His poetry has recently appeared in Southern Humanities Review, The Gettysburg Review, The Southern Review, and Beloit Poetry Journal. His review of Karen Green’s visual narrative, Frail Sister, is forthcoming from Denver Quarterly.