Bullets occlude her barrel, so our shots can run
their course. Her sight occludes a heart. Does this say enough about a gun?
Woods, dun sky, smell of peat, crunching leaves tinted toward autumn
blood, grouse and squirrel startle as if sensing this gun.
When the doc asked me to undress, I blushed and shed trousers
and briefs, but not the holster, a chemise for my Gunnhildr.
More red-handed than red-faced, both chambers open to the barrel
of cash inquisitors who brandish their higher office: shogun.
Claim impotence, or dread, our distance from each other. Marooned
at a window, I conjure stabbing sunlight—and feel outgunned.
Never touched one? Smooth butt. Raddled sheath that lodges the muzzle.
Heft of a newborn. Smell of oil. Throb of gun, gun, gun.
Better not to look, tatters, scatter-holes when one would do—
I won’t look, torn mouths, carmine slobber, I won’t, not even at gunpoint.
Stunned memories recede to a spit of beach the maps still call
Sandy Hook, where, at sunset, ocean turns to burgundy.
This elegy arose from Al-Andalus, as we are here to mourn
fawn and gazelle. Our viziers have donned sackcloth, a riddled gunny.
Have we no limits—some way to disarm the mind, stop fire
in Colorado, shelter doves in schoolyards? A glossary of gun.
It feels gone, no brace to dampen the discharge of a cardinal rite;
the mikes can’t beckon the ensemble onstage, the finale begun.
As in the archetypal wrestling match
with an angel, the dreamer
believes hold and grip have latched
on well enough to prevail,
but then first light appears and it’s revealed
he’s been wounded by the dream.
But the dream shouldn’t go free either.
Like a little devil whose knuckles
need to be rapped with a ruler,
the creature depends on my struggle
to detain her—to surrender
a blessing, name, opus of color.
Occasionally during these pre-dawn bouts
an automatic writing flows.
I watch my finger bleed thin ink and run
toward guise and form, billowing
to winged image then back to cloud
before my corrective eyes open,
before I dare forget contours
of what never holds its shape
but, with concentration, might leave
a ghost blotch that won’t subside.
I run to my notebook, write
symbols, one like a sparrow—dead.
Georges revived wings in his drawings;
from the lines in his Ateliers sprung
mercurial birds—Arctic terns
turning Antarctic, gliding
southward almost freely, a skein
whose primal charts helm but not determine—
while, before me, a gray waxen smudge
warns that I’ve made a wrong turn.
Michael Sandler’s poems have appeared (or are forthcoming) in numerous journals, most recently in Zone 3, Pennsylvania English, Euphony, Crack the Spine, Willow Review, Fourteen Hills, Forge, The Tower Journal, Valparaiso Poetry Review and Fogged Clarity. He lives near Seattle.