Steak dinners are the worst /you prefer the fatty cut / those white-ribboned slabs from Save-A-Lot / I want something leaner / no red please / at the table you pick the gristle from your teeth / that’s Rule #4 / don’t pick your teeth at the table / not even with a toothpick / we don’t have any toothpicks / I don’t keep them in stock / ha / also don’t shovel or stab your food / that’s #3 & you do that too / you eat like a truck driver is what father would say / don’t hunch / do we need to send you to finishing school? / btw he was a lip purser / would wave his fork up & down like a conductor / as though the air at the table were turbulent / how do I disgust you? / he’d spit / mother kept colored toothpicks in the kitchen cabinet / I liked the blue & pink ones best / I’ve watched you now for years / & who knows how many more we’ve got / I don’t math / I wouldn’t say you’re a lip smacker exactly / more of a lip revver the way they start spinning before the fork / in anticipation of / like you’re warming up for the buffet race / it is all so irritating / the sound of your hunger / the taptaptap of silver on ceramic / that popping jaw
After Fang snapped photos of the boys & sent them to you
to show he knew where we lived & where they went to daycare,
your carry permit came in two days & so did the state police,
who drove from Pikesville to surveil our home the way you
surveil with trail cams the deer you hunt with your bow
& muzzleloader, the 12 gauge that leans against the safe
in the game room, where you keep all your dead.
Your .40 caliber Sig Sauer is the thing you said
would keep us safe, that you still keep loaded, no safety,
in your jeans drawer. Because a gun is no good
if you can’t get to it in time. Because a good man
with a gun is better than. Because the worst part of a threat is
the always-waiting-but-never-knowing-when of it.
Sometimes I dream I die at the Food Lion—close range,
a single shot to the head, my blood spattering frozen
peas & lima beans. Sometimes I dream you die, your body
bagged, loaded on a stretcher outside the county courthouse.
I have learned to live with drawerfuls of shotshells & the clink
of brass bullets as they spill from your pockets in the spin cycle.
I have learned the hollow-point bullet is best for self-defense
because of the way it blooms in soft tissue. But the day you left
your Sig, loaded, on the kitchen table, the boys were home,
& I learned I could say it: I will leave you. How many times have I
sworn it? Don’t make promises you can’t keep, Chekhov said. One must not
put a loaded rifle on the stage if no one is thinking of firing it—yet,
here we are, loaded guns strewn across the page, & I still can’t pull the trigger.