“Gun Control”

A weekly poem, read by the author.
Dec. 18 2012 8:30 AM

“Gun Control”

A boy looks at guns in a case.

Photograph by Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images.

Click the arrow on the audio player to hear Carol Muske-Dukes read this poem. You can also download the recording or subscribe to Slate's Poetry Podcast on iTunes.


When the older brother, horsing around, opened fire
With the 12 gauge and shot his little brother in the back,
my Aunt Anna pressed her open

Hand over the wound, over the blown right lung.
Blood stuttered up
through her fingers. As he began to slide away,
she kept
her hand hard-flat against that death.
At Emergency, they had to pry

It away. He survived that night.
When he takes his shirt off today, at the lake,
You can see the bleach-white stretch where
No hair grows and the skin thins to
Her imprint—a hand-span—just under his shoulder
Where a wing, if we had wings, might begin to unfurl.


I said, “He’s going to hurt someone”—and the Director,
As he had been instructed by those far above the precincts
of the Workshop, told me nothing could be done until he did.

So he wrote things that spun his hurt and jagged plan round
Each other like the knife feints of the blood-masked Jack
the Ripper—“surgeon in the bee-loud glade,” he wrote.
If the blood jet was Poetry, Jack would sip demi-liters from

My neck and the neck of the girl sitting next to him.
He shouted out in my class that we were married, he
Would prove it “someday.” Skipping his meds,
Flinging a lit smoke. At the campus bar, he

broke the bottle kept in his pack—vaulted
over to cut the bartender’s throat. They tackled
him. But he shook free, reached for the gun,

ready to open fire. They called the Psych
Center there “Workshop East”: I remember that.


Late at a Hollywood dinner party, he leaned in to me,
Hair over one eye, smiling in that boyish seductive style,
So familiar from the Big Screen. Seriously drunk.
He was telling me what he feared most “on this earth”:
“Waking up in bed to find someone standing over me
with a gun.” Later I heard how he did it—
ln bed, pistol to his temple. When the man with the Glock
floated over him: he knew he was all he’d ever feared.

For Slate's poetry submission guidelines, click here. Click here to visit Robert Pinsky's Favorite Poem Project site.


Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore

And schools are getting worried.

160 Countries Host Marches to Demand Action on Climate Change


Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

Why a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Is Stirring Up Controversy

How Worried Should Poland, the Baltic States, and Georgia Be About a Russian Invasion?

Trending News Channel
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM -30-
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Sept. 21 2014 1:15 PM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 5  A spoiler-filled discussion of "Time Heist."
Brow Beat
Sept. 21 2014 2:00 PM Colin Farrell Will Star in True Detective’s Second Season
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 21 2014 8:00 AM An Astronaut’s Guided Video Tour of Earth
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.