The gun—purchased legally
by our parents when I was ten,

shown to us, placed in our hands
that we might sense the weight, then placed

on a shelf any of us
could reach, though we did not, not yet—

pulled by our mother six years
later as I straddled her son’s

small body to stop his fists
from battering me—our mother,

misreading the scene, seeing
her youngest in danger, and me,

too large in her mind to be
handled any other way— our

mother holding the gun and
shaking the gun and crying, caught

in an act of betrayal,
not yet angry that I would run,

sock clad, to Sam’s Pitt Stop Fried
Chicken and Fish to tell Sam Pitt,

my boss from the last summer
to tell him with incredulity—

no, with something more naïve,
say, shock or hurt, that my mother

had just pulled a gun on me,
the good child, the obedient

child, and she, later, saying
she had no other choice

she had to save her boy,
the malt liquor on her breath,
the blue bull in her blood, remorse,

perhaps, in her voice as she
asked, without asking, for forgiveness,

the gun returned to the shelf.

Originally published in Tin House (18.4, 2017). Copyright © 2017 by Donika Kelly. Used with the permission of the poet.