Shooting the Ones We Love


My father was the seventh
of eight children and grew up
on a farm, which in the sixties apparently
meant your older brothers told you to
run around the barn
then shot at you with
BB guns,
something we still do today
– shooting the ones we love –
though we pull different triggers, mostly of
ambivalence or

My daughter, for example,
knows exactly how to
glare off into the ether, firing
shots with her silence,
while one of my sons is a real marksman
with his breathing, and that particular way
he slumps his shoulders.

Imagine running from an older
brother knowing the cross-
hairs are on your back, then hearing
the !pop! of the gun – that is
fear in its purest form,
the feeling that surges in the moment
between sound
and sting.

It is similar to how I feel listening
to a mosquito in the room at night. The buzzing
swerves like a drunk driver, always
closer, always
and while the sound is annoying,
the silence that follows means the small
bug is preparing to
take something from me.

During one hot summer evening at the cabin
not too many years ago, my
sisters and my wife and my brother-in-law
decided two of us should run into
the night while the rest shot at them
with BB guns. The past, it seems, is inescapable
an endless loop, one
that will always circle
around and bite you when you’re sleeping.

My brother-in-law returned from his dash
with a BB stuck under his skin, and
I used a butter knife to press
beside the small lump. It was satisfying,
squeezing out the BB,
like lancing the head
of a boil, or finally

releasing fear
and embracing silence,
the empty space beneath my skin.