Instructions at the Gun Range

JOHN POCH

Don’t touch it yet. The gun is not a toy.
This isn’t home, or church, or work, or school,
though good men carry there. Our simple rule:
Take aim at nothing you will not destroy.

Although you may well crack a smile, enjoy
the kick, the carbon high, the wine-dark jewel
the laser draws upon the target…a fool
would trust the giant horse outside of Troy.

It’s loaded. Take stock of accidents, the boy
who hovers face-down, quiet in a pool
of blood. His own. He thought it might be cool
to show his teenage friends the real McCoy

his father failed to hide. His mother’s joy
lies slain, a savings spent, a molecule
adrift, her hours thirsting for the fuel
of days, and love has now become a duel.
Breathe in for everything you won’t destroy.
Breathe out. The room for error’s miniscule.


John Poch’s poems have been published in Paris Review, Poetry, Yale Review, and Agni. His most recent book, Texases, was published by WordFarm in 2019. He teaches at Texas Tech University.