At the Skeet Shoot the Day After Sandy Hook

by Cayla Garman


You are ten years old with the barrel of a .22 pressed to your still-round cheeks.

You stand feet aptly spaced, head slightly forward, shoulders steady,

ready to shoot on the natural pause of your white-cloud breathing.

Breathing, a task you often struggle with in the hallways

between classes. Your eyes darting to make note of exits,

fast moving hands, bulky pockets—your locker exists

in the space between life and death, the purgatory

of a potential headline. December 14, 2012. 28 dead.

Before that, April 2, 2012. 7 dead. October 2006,

10 dead. March 2005, 7 dead. You can measure your childhood

in the nationwide vigils of other kids, flickering

candles against the darkening nights of the gunpowder

winter. The skeet is launched, a red clay frisbee disk

that soars through the air like its namesake—a clay pigeon.

Glide your barrel into its arc, a few yards ahead,

trigger finger electric with intent. Across the frosted field,

your parents watch your expert form with reserved anticipation—

a champion they can count on, a space in the car for another medal,

another trophy. In your mother’s back pocket rests your good luck charm,

a brass casing from the first bullet you ever shot. You imagine it nestled there,

in its denim prison, seeping with blood, crimson creeping into the blue fibers,

staining and continuing on: creeping across your school’s white linoleum floors,

soaking into the school library carpet, spraying onto the produce

in the cafeteria. You imagine blood, the tide of blood,

coming for everything you know, sent by a rain of bullets

pushed from the barrels of black guns, already reloading.

The skeet flies into your red dot faster than you can wring

all that thick blood from your mind. You shoot and,

for first time, the bullet does not shatter the clay bird,

it grows wings of its own, flying into the nearby trees

and choosing its own place to rest among the frozen bramble.

Somewhere in the crowd, your mother’s breath catches

in her throat, your father stares in disbelief. Peel the metal barrel

off your cheek, wet with cold tears. The clay pigeon

hits the ground and, despite your merciful miss, still shatters,

jagged terracotta pieces littering the forest floor, orange candle flames

among the dead tan grass, a vigil all your own, and your own silent protest:

a gun that will not be reloaded and a gold medal that will get to weigh

down another child's neck the way it already weighs down

on your emerging conscience.


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