Rite de Passage and the Irony of the Sharpshooter

Mum sent me a photo
of a sign near Jam Tree Gully
that’s been peppered by
shotgun pellets. It’s become
a recurring image in poems
written in separation,
but tuned to zeitgeist.
But what I’ve not drawn
out of sublingual and tangled
syntax of observation
is that I have been with shooters
who’ve pierced, decorated,
illustrated or condemned
signs to damnation,
and that I have myself,
as a teenager, shot at one.
I am not sure if this
is confession, nor am
I sure it was a rite de passage,
being on my own at the time,
drunk and lonely and curious
to see if a twenty-two would
more than dent the heavy-gauge steel.
A single shot into the centre
of a crossroads sign—a desire
to bullseye, to mark ambiguity
where there was no ambiguity.
There are rules for traffic,
even where traffic is rare,
where braking on gravel
could have you slide
concurrently to a dead centre.
I listen for that pinging
of symbols and emblems,
‘instruction’ and ‘information,’
and it sounds less like a bell
than a warning shot.

Copyright @ 2014 by John Kinsella. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-a-Day on June 13, 2014.