journalism in verse

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Bang, You’re Dead (A Canadian Christmas)

in Gun Violence/Opinion by

When it comes to major mass shootings (where more than four people are killed), there have been an average of just 72 days between events during the period of 2010 to 2017. – Telegraph UK

Bang, you’re dead, I used to yell,
toting my plastic Colt 45,
or one Christmas, the olive-green
machine gun that shot plastic bullets
only half as far as I could spit.
Often it was just me alone
on a construction site, rain-filled
house foundations doubling
for bomb craters, dead soldiers
of sawn boards stacked for cremation.

My father, who refused to hunt
unless the family needed food,
taught me by age 12 how to hit
the neck of a bottle at 20 yards.
This is a tool, he said, the same as a knife
or a pen. If I ever catch you
aiming it at someone, that’s it.
Hearing reports of rich tourists
flown north for the moose hunt
and blasting at anything that moves,
including each other, he had
only one muttered comment: Yahoos!

Mountains of snow piled
at the end of our street
were perfect props for games,
whose natural selection
by the neighbourhood rabble
settled on King of the Mountain.
No one schooled us on the inherent
imperialism of such a game.
Yet by age 13, something inside me knew
I was a pacifist, and would spend war
in jail before pulling the trigger
on anyone. Ghosts of colonialism bred
in the bones, seeking redemption. And still,
the armies of nature vs. nurture deploy.

Decades later, meeting my high school
girlfriend in her empty nest, she said,
I tried giving my sons dolls and
playhouses, but every time, they chose
tractors and guns. So don’t talk to me
about tabula rasa. You don’t unpick eons
of evolution overnight.


READ MORE

How US gun deaths compare to other countries [CBS News]


Sean Arthur Joyce is a journalist, poet and historian with seven books published, ranging from Canadian history to poetry to a new novel, Mountain Blues, due out in May 2018 from NeWest Press, Edmonton, Alberta.

 

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