The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®

 

Alice Friman

Ammunition

                    for DH

 

My childhood home didn't have
guns from three wars mounted
on the walls as yours did. We had

other weapons. We learned early
how to hone in on the soft parts
without all that metal. We had eye-

darts and below-the-belt ridicule.
We had a stick-it-to-you-you'll-
never-get-rid-of-it shiv in the ribs.

So I'm not impressed by your
Antique Roadshow collection
of flintlocks and Smith & Wessons,

great-grandpa's blunderbuss. Nor
do I envy your born-into-it flags,
rebel yells, and "honorable causes."

My ammo's smeared with older blood,
rue blood, Jew blood, so much blood
the world's sick of hearing about it.

One look at that lady in the harbor
raising a torch to her own platitudes
and we thought we could forget

the malice we'd been taught. Why not?
A new leaf in the book, a new page,
a new start in this America, this

streets-paved-with-gold America
of pushcarts and factory piecework.
Tell me Friend, you with the guns,

what other true-blue Americana
decked your walls? We had Roosevelt.
Franklin Delano. A grinning photo

of the man who was going to save us.
Trouble was, he couldn't save us. Nothing
could save us. Not even the six million

he let slip through his fingers. Six million,
shot, starved, or up the chimney, to add
to our stockpile for future use. Their DNA

roiling down the gutters of Brooklyn,
up the broad avenues of Manhattan,
and across the Hudson to follow us

wherever we went. No, we never had
stashes of guns. We had violins and books.
And if we had to hide or hightail it and run,

we took what we could with us. Sure,
we gave America corned beef on rye,
lox, bagels, and George Gershwin.

Not to mention the Salk vaccine, cheese
danish and Phil Levine. You can't say
we weren't generous. But don't be fooled.

We had weapons. And we could dish it out
with the best of them. Ice-Pick Willie had
nothing on us. He used a gun. We used guilt.

 

 

 

ALICE FRIMAN's sixth full-length collection is The View from Saturn, LSU Press. Her previous collection is Vinculum, LSU, for which she won the 2012 Georgia Author of the Year Award in Poetry. She is a recipient of a 2012 Pushcart Prize, is included in Best American Poetry 2009, and has been published in 14 countries. Friman lives in Milledgeville, Georgia, where she is Poet-in-Residence at Georgia College. Her podcast, Ask Alice, can be seen on YouTube.

 

 

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