David Huddle

Gun Notes
December 14, 2014 Huddle David

Gun Notes



This man and I softly discussed hunting

at a dinner party. I’d just met him,

we’d liked each other immediately,

but we spoke carefully, as nowadays

men must do who aren’t looking to argue.


I asked if he’d advise me on a matter

that’d been nagging me: I owned a shotgun

but had lost track of where the ammunition

was in the house, and I’d become concerned

about defending myself and my wife


in case of a break-in.  Should I buy shells

for the gun was my question.  My new friend

had tales to tell of tragic accidental

shootings and near shootings.  Finally, though,




he said yes, buy the shells.  When I asked if

I should load the shotgun–it’s a ladies’

410 gauge side-by-side my grandfather bought

for my grandmother that she had never fired–

Clayton–that’s his name–said, Definitely not,


put the box of shells high up in the closet

where you keep the gun.  This was wise advice.

Clayton and I both knew if intruders

broke in, it’d be unlikely I could fetch

the box down, pluck out the shells, and load them


in time to confront the perps with my antique

shotgun, and even if I could have, would that

have been what I wanted?  We both knew

I just needed a way to pretend I was safe.




Datillio’s Gun Shop & Gas Station

holds three young men, a leathery old codger

and a boy about twelve, surrounded

by displays of archery equipment,

towering shelves of ammunition, pistols

beneath glass cases, rifles and shotguns

on racks above and behind the counter

–and it’s still a working filling station!


All five males scrutinize me steadily

when I say what I want. They listen to me

describing the shotgun to the one

wearing camouflage who asks me what size

shells I have in mind.  The six of us determine

two-inch shells are what I should buy.  Small, heavy

box in my hand, weirdly validated,

I walk out into November’s fading light.



Twilight when I get home, house to myself,

I unsheathe Grandmama Huddle’s shotgun

from its canvas case to carry it downstairs

and reckon with it in the family room.


I’d forgotten how a gun in my hand

unmoors me, turns me into somebody

capable of I don’t know what.  Here

with a TV, a rocking chair, toys, books,


a poinsettia, I fool with my weapon.

I open it, squint down the empty barrels,

load and unload the shells, switch the safety

on and off.  In this room I don’t raise the gun


to my shoulder, nestle it against my cheek

place my finger on the trigger.  Wrong to do that.




My childhood home had rifles from three wars

mounted on its walls; a snub-nose thirty-eight

stashed in a bureau drawer underneath

my father’s socks; air rifles and pellet guns

in closets and back rooms. I adored the cap-guns

and holsters Santa Claus brought me for Christmas.

I once pointed an empty BB gun

at my brother’s ear and pulled the trigger.

I’ve hunted deer, shot birds and rabbits.

Most days in the army I carried a rifle

or a pistol.

The twenty first-graders shot

in Newtown made me want never to see

another gun.  Those dead kids, shot again

and again, made me want to kill somebody.



Violence-addicted gun-idiot

America, I’d shed you like a rattlesnake

scraping off its old skin except I’d still

be a rattlesnake.

My wife and I said

we’d move to Canada if George Bush was

elected a second time, and he was,

and we didn’t.

We had our excuses,

still have them, but we could leave today if

we really wanted to, if we weren’t

who we are,

believers like our parents

and theirs,

citizens blind to what we do now–

kill our children, shame and imprison our poor,

dishonor our old folks, and make our crooks rich.


I have a gun in my house.  Don’t fuck with me.

David Huddle teaches at the Bread Loaf School of English.  His fiction, poetry, and essays have appeared in The American Scholar, Esquire, The New Yorker, Harper’s, Poetry, Shenandoah, Agni, Plume, The Hollins Critic, and the Georgia Review.  In 2012 his novel Nothing Can Make Me Do This won the Library of Virginia Award for Fiction, and his poetry collection Black Snake at the Family Reunion won the Pen New England Award for Poetry.  Huddle’s novel The Faulkes Chronicle appeared from Tupelo Press in Fall 2014, and a poetry collection, Dream Sender was published by LSU Press in Fall 2015.  In 2016, a novel, My Immaculate Assassin, appeared from Tupelo Press.  Another novel, Hazel, was published in 2019, and his most recent poetry collection, My Surly Heart, was published by LSU Press in 2019.  With Meighan Sharp, Huddle has co-authored a poetry collection, Effusive Greetings to Friends, which will be forthcoming from Groundhog Poetry Press very soon.



**Photographer:  Molly Huddle Coffey